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Former intelligence chief alleged to have personally strangled Georgy Gongadze

(RSF/IFEX) - Two unidentified Ukrainian colonels who were arrested on 1 March 2005 in the Georgy Gongadze murder investigation have reportedly told judicial investigators that Gongadze, who edited the online newspaper "Ukrainska Pravda", was strangled by General Olexi Pukach, the former head of the Interior Ministry's intelligence services. The information was revealed by Kiev deputy prosecutor General Victor Shokin in an interview with the "Segodnia" daily newspaper on 12 April.

Pukach, who was already suspected of having ordered the destruction of files on certain individuals, most probably the policemen who followed Gongadze for several months prior to his disappearance in September 2000, is therefore now personally and directly implicated in his murder. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Pecherski District Court in Kiev on 25 January. He is believed to be currently residing in Israel.

The two detained colonels and a third person under house arrest in Kiev, who has also not been identified, are charged under Article 93 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code with "murder with aggravating circumstances", the aggravating circumstances in this case being the fact that they were together at the time. The offence was punishable by death until February 2000, when Ukraine signed the Sixth Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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