Ukraine Convicts Ex-Cop Chief in Journo's Beheading

Olexiy Pukach says he was ordered to kill Georgy Gongadze

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 29, 2013 11:41 AM CST

(Newser) – A former police chief has been convicted in the 2000 murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze, the BBC reports. Olexiy Pukach has been sentenced to life in prison in the high-profile case; the court says he killed Gongadze and cut off his head afterward. Pukach has confessed to the killing, saying it was ordered by then-interior minister Yuri Kravchenko. The case was embroiled in politics, with Gongadze's death occurring shortly after he set up a news website that attacked then-president Leonid Kuchma.

After the murder, protesters demonstrated against the president. But Kuchma, who says he wasn't involved, escaped conviction after recordings used in the case were deemed to have been illegally obtained. Pukach said he had killed Gongadze by accident, strangling him in an attempt to gain information on the journalist's reported spying, the KyivPost reports. Pukach also acknowledged decapitating Gongadze. Pukach's team, however, plans an appeal. Kravchenko died in what was ruled a suicide in 2005, just before his questioning in the case. The BBC notes, however, that controversy exists over how he was able to shoot himself twice in the head.

In this Aug. 2000 file photo, investigative journalist Georgy Gongadze is seen in the Ukrainian capital.   (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov, File)
Olexiy Pukach, left, in a defendant's cage on the final day of his trial in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.   (AP Photo)
People hold candles during a ceremony in memory of journalist Georgy Gongadze at the Independence Square in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.   (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
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