: Rafal Geremak: “WIDOW TESTIFIES TO BRUTAL CORRUPTION IN UKRAINE”
додано: 01-09-2001 // // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/999351116.html
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Miroslava Gongadze fears for her life, her journalist husband having lost his head in their native Ukraine last year, apparently because he dared to write articles critical of President Leonid Kuchma and his regime.
After her husband Georgiy's headless body was found and tapes were discovered that suggested Kuchma may have ordered his kidnapping, protests erupted across Ukraine, and Miroslava became a symbol of resistance to Kuchma and the handful of business leaders who run the country.
Now living in exile in Washington, D.C., Miroslava spent the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence in Pittsburgh, visiting one of the largest ethnic Ukrainian communities in the United States at the invitation of the Pittsburgh Alliance of Ukrainian Organizations.
"There was no direct threat to me and my family" Miroslava said. "But also nothing portended Georgiy's assassination. I moved here for the sake of my children. I couldn't stand the psychological pressure."
Two months ago, when democratic activists tried to erect a monument dedicated to the journalists killed in independent Ukraine, someone broke into the workshop and smashed the stone slab.
FBI experts have identified Georgiy's body, but little else is known about his murder. Miroslava still hopes to learn who killed her husband but the authorities are not exactly cooperating. The government wants his body buried and his case closed, but they've handled the "investigation" clumsily.
Three months ago, the minister of internal affairs was forced to back down from his claim that Gongadze was killed by two gangsters, who later were also killed.
Miroslava Gongadze doesn't publicly blame Kuchma for her husband's death, but believes he should take responsibility for it.
"I don't have direct evidence, although his words were recorded on tape" she said. "But he created a system in which it became possible. He had enough power to complete this investigation and to prove that he is not guilty."
The exiled Miroslava plans to lobby for democratic reform in Ukraine wherever she can. Next month she will fly to Warsaw for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. After that, she visits the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
"I meet politicians all over the world and write letters to launch an international investigation into my husband's case. My husband's case caused the greatest political crisis from the beginning of the 10 years of independent Ukraine.
Until it is solved, the country won't be stable."
Ukrainians "can see the murderers are not found and that Kuchma is still in power, so they think that they can't do anything -- like in the old days in the Soviet Union. That's why we have to complete the investigation in Georgiy's case. I just want to show the people in Ukraine that everybody can do something for change. We can win against corrupted power.
"Ukraine has two significant neighbors: Poland and Russia. And those countries have two different influences on Ukraine. Russia and (President) Putin support totalitarian methods of ruling, and they need Ukraine plunged in chaos because it is easy to influence and control such a country. Poland needs Ukraine stable and integrated with Europe. It's the best choice for us. And this crisis will have an effect on Ukraine's choice.
"Some Ukrainian-Americans and some American politicians think it's bad to condemn and in a decisive way criticize Kuchma for his way of running the country, because they are afraid that may turn it toward Russia. This doesn't help Ukraine. Kuchma's only strategy is to be in power. He doesn't want to have Ukraine in Europe."
Last month, the Bush administration toughened the U.S. stance toward the Kuchma regime and told Ukrainian authorities that if they manipulate the parliamentary elections scheduled for March, their relations with the West will deteriorate.
One problem is that public TV and the overwhelming majority of newspapers are controlled by Kuchma or his allies.
"At the beginning of independent Ukraine journalists were more courageous" said Miroslava. "Now they are more self-censored themselves because they are just afraid, especially after what happened to Georgiy."
On July 3 another investigative independent journalist, Ihor Aleksandrow, was killed in Ukraine. Aleksandrow was sitting in his office at his radio-TV TOR studio when men rushed in and beat him up. He died four days later.
додано: 01-09-2001 // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/999351116.html
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