Ukraine Gongadze murder: Ex-President Kuchma charged

Ukrainian ex-President Leonid Kuchma faces reporters in Kiev, 23 March Mr Kuchma was questioned over two days

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Ukrainian ex-President Leonid Kuchma has told reporters he has been charged after being questioned by prosecutors over the 2000 murder of a journalist.

He said he had not read the charges himself. Prosecutors opened a case against him this week on suspicion of a role in Georgy Gongadze's death.

Gongadze was found beheaded months after being abducted in September 2000, when Mr Kuchma was in power.

The ex-president earlier denied any part in his death.

"I have been charged," Mr Kuchma said after emerging from a second day of questioning at the prosecutor general's office in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Thursday.

"On Monday we will meet here again and we'll see how things develop further."

Asked what the charges were, he replied: "I have not yet read them.

"You can imagine what the charges are. There is nothing new beyond what was said at the press conference of the deputy prosecutor general."

Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said on Tuesday that Mr Kuchma was suspected of abusing his official powers by giving orders to interior ministry officials that "eventually led to the journalist's killing".

Tape evidence

The murder of Gongadze, a critic of President Kuchma, sparked massive street protests against Mr Kuchma's government at the time.

Georgy Gongadze (undated family photo) Georgy Gongadze's headless body was found in a forest

Gongadze - founder of the Ukrainska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth) website - sought to expose high-level corruption.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Kuchma insisted the affair had been a "horrible provocation against Ukraine and its president".

Prosecutors have banned the former president, who was in office from 1994 to 2005, from leaving the country.

They have confirmed that controversial audio tapes secretly recorded in Mr Kuchma's office by one of his bodyguards while he was president will be recognised as valid evidence in the case.

On the tapes a voice resembling that of Mr Kuchma's suggests Gongadze should be "kidnapped by Chechens".

Mr Kuchma has not denied it is his voice on the tapes but insists it was doctored to make him appear to say things he did not actually say.

In 2009, Ukrainian officials arrested former interior ministry official Olexiy Pukach, who later confessed to personally strangling Gongadze and then beheading him with an axe. Three other officials are serving jail terms for their part in the killing.

Prosecutors earlier said that former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, now dead, had ordered Gongadze's killing.

Mr Kravchenko is said to have committed suicide in 2005 - his body was found with two gunshot wounds to the head.

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