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March 4, 2005
Another Ukrainian Minister Kills Himself

The Orange Revolution, a bloodless exercise in people power which overthrew a proto-puppet government, has not gone as bloodless as thought. The reversal of Viktor Yanukovych's fraudulent electoral win and the subsequent victory of Viktor Yushchenko has removed the political protection for the highly-ranked allies of Yanukovych -- and they seem to all have the same exit strategy in mind:

Ukraine's former interior minister has been found dead of an apparent suicide on the day he was to be questioned about the killing of an opposition-minded journalist, officials said.

The Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU, confirmed Friday that Yuri Kravchenko's body was found at his country house and that a preliminary investigation suggests he committed suicide, CNN's Jill Dougherty reported.

Kravchenko was due to be questioned Friday by prosecutors in connection with the murder of investigative journalist Georhiy Gongadze.

Some criticized the West for its insistence on free and open Ukrainian elections and the December do-over that elected Yushchenko. People believed that such action undermined Vladimir Putin when we need his assistance in fighting terrorism, and possibly made Russia more dangerous and more likely to retreat from democracy. Now that the election has kicked over the stones of the previous government, the worms that crawled beneath during the long Kuchma presidency don't appear capable of withstanding sunlight.

Kravchenko is the second of former Kuchma and Yanukovuch ministers to have died either from suicide or unknown causes in the past three months. Heorhiy Kyrpa, the transportation minister, was found dead days after the election with a bullet in his head, reportedly self-inflicted. Both ministers were targets of investigations into widespread corruption, and Kravchenko also was linked strongly to Gongadze's murder. Kravchenko, had he not died, might have provided links to higher-ranking Ukrainian politicos in the Gongadze case, as CNN reports:

His death sparked months of protests against then-President Leonid Kuchma. Critics implicated Kuchma in the murder, citing secretly recorded audio tapes in which Kuchma allegedly ordered his staff to get rid of the journalist. Kuchma vehemently denied those charges.

In the tapes, Kuchma was overheard repeatedly complaining about Gongadze's reporting and ordering Kravchenko to "drive him out, throw (him) out, give him to the Chechens."

The high-profile murder was never solved during Kuchma's presidency. Recently elected President Viktor Yushchenko has made the case a high priority and vowed to solve it.

"Give him to the Chechens"? That must be the Ukrainian equivalent of "sleeping with the fishes". It wouldn't be the first time thata similarity between the Kuchma government and Russian-influenced Ukrainian politics and The Sopranos has been noted (see King Banaian for much more on this topic). One thing is sure: Kravchenko won't give testimony that might implicate former President Kuchma now. How coincidentally fortunate for Kuchma.

Yushchenko may want to put the rest of Kuchma's cabinet on suicide watch for a while, just to be on the safe side.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 4, 2005 7:29 AM

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