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Chief suspect in Ukraine’s “cassette case” gives testimony

October 24, 2012, 22:01 UTC+3
Local mass media say he will testify against former Prime Minister and opposition Batkivshchina party leader Yulia Timoshenko
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KIEV, October 24 (Itar-Tass) —— Former Ukrainian State Guard Service officer Nikolai Melnichenko has been detained in Kiev’s Borispol Airport on Wednesday, October 24, is giving testimony to investigators from the department for high-profile cases at the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“He is giving testimony right now,” First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin told local television.

According to unofficial information, Melnichenko may be held at the Ukrainian Security Service’s investigation prison or at Kiev’s Shevchenkovsky District Court.

Melnichenko returned from the United States to Ukraine earlier in the day and was detained at the airport by Ukrainian Security Service officers.

Local mass media say he will testify against former Prime Minister and opposition Batkivshchina party leader Yulia Timoshenko.

Melnichenko said at a press conference in Washington and later on his Facebook account that he has facts testifying to Timoshenko’s and former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko’s involvement I the assassination of Donetsk entrepreneur and MP Yevgeny Shcherban in 1996.

Melnichenko claimed that he had been asked by Timoshenko’s family to testify against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich so as to portray him as the mastermind of Shcherban’s assassination.

Kiev's Pechersky District Court earlier refused to drop criminal charges against Melnichenko involved in the so-called “cassette case”.

In September 2011, the defence appealed the resolution issued by the Prosecutor General's Office in 2001, which ordered the commencement of criminal proceedings against Melnichenko.

In of the same year, the Pechersky District Court invalidated the decision of the Prosecutor General's Office to close the criminal case against Melnichenko.

Melnichenko was put on the wanted list by Ukraine's Security Service in September 2011.

The lawyers of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who has been accused by Melnichenko of ordering the killing of journalist Georgy Gongadze, said the major was hiding from prosecution.

They claim that Melnichenko was testifying freely against Kuchma during the pre-trial investigation but disappeared after he had been charged with abuse of office, disclosure of state secrets and document forgery.

On June 27, 2012, the Higher Specialised Court upheld the rulings of Kiev’s Pechersky District Court and the Court of Appeals that declared the criminal case against Kuchma unlawful.

In late December 2011, the Prosecutor General's Office appealed the ruling of Kiev's Pechersky District Court to annul the resolution ordering the commencement of criminal proceedings against Kuchma in the journalist Georgy Gongadze assassination case.

Earlier in the same month, the Pechersky District Court ruled that the Prosecutor General's Office had no solid reasons for opening a criminal case against Kuchma who insists on further investigation and search for the masterminds and perpetrators of Gongadze's murder.

The Pechersky District Court has also resumed the investigation of the case of former Interior Ministry General Alexei Pukach implicated in the murder of Gongadze.

On August 30, 2011, Pukach said in court that he had killed Gongadze.

Another court in the Kiev region proclaimed as untruthful Melnichenko's assertions that parliament speaker Vladimir Litvin was allegedly involved in Gongadze's assassination.

It forbade Melnichenko to spread any incorrect information about Litvin and obligated him to organise and conduct a press conference at his own expense in order to deny his earlier accusations against Litvin.

Three former police officers have been sentenced to long terms in prison in this case. In July 2009, police detained Pukach, who had also been charged with involvement in the case.

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