Ukraine's Security Chief Says Ex-Official Killed Himself

By STEVEN LEE MYERS

New York Times

March 5, 2005

MOSCOW, March 5 - The chief of Ukraine's security service said Saturday that the country's former interior minister, Yuri F. Kravchenko, had shot himself twice in the head on Friday, refuting speculation that he had been killed by someone else.

The official announcement and a note found in Mr. Kravchenko's pocket, the security chief added, left little doubt that Mr. Kravchenko had committed suicide.

Oleksandr V. Turchinov, chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, said in televised remarks that the note left by Mr. Kravchenko could provide significant details for prosecutors investigating the killing of Georgy Gongadze, a prominent journalist whose death in 2000 provoked protests and international criticism of Leonid D. Kuchma, who was then the president.

Mr. Kravchenko, who served as interior minister at the time of Mr. Gongadze's abduction and killing, was found dead Friday at a country cottage outside Kiev.

He had been scheduled to meet prosecutors on Friday for questioning about his involvement in Mr. Gongadze's case or his knowledge of the details surrounding it.

Mr. Turchinov was recently appointed by the new president, Viktor A. Yushchenko, who has vowed to revive the long-stalled investigation into Mr. Gongadze's death. Mr. Turchinov said in an interview on Ukraine's 1+1 television network that Mr. Kravchenko had been "one of the prime suspects."

His death has roiled Ukraine's politics, with some leading lawmakers criticizing the government's handling of the investigation and others calling for more arrests, including Mr. Kuchma's. Mr. Kuchma, who had been vacationing in the Czech Republic after stepping down in January, returned to Ukraine on Saturday after again denying that he had had anything to do with Mr. Gongadze's killing.

Mr. Turchinov, who examined the cottage and the shed where Mr. Kravchenko died, declined to describe the contents of the note, but indicated that Mr. Kravchenko's death had not brought the investigation to a halt.

"It provides quite a lot of information for the investigation," he said of the note, according to Interfax. "The note concerns particular people who are also suspects in the case. It provides investigators with a chance to plan the further direction of the investigation."

After years of inaction under Mr. Kuchma, the investigation has gathered momentum, raising speculation that senior members of Mr. Kuchma's government could face arrest and trial for Mr. Gongadze's killing, one of the most prominent and symbolic crimes committed in Ukraine since the country regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Earlier this week, Mr. Yushchenko and the prosecutor general, Svyatoslav M. Piskun, announced that they had arrested three suspects, a general and two colonels who worked under Mr. Kravchenko. They also said they knew who had orchestrated the crime, though they did not elaborate. Mr. Piskun also publicly identified Mr. Kravchenko as a witness, announcing in advance that Mr. Kravchenko would be questioned by investigators on the day he died.

Mr. Turchinov said Mr. Kravchenko's daughter was walking the family's dog in the yard of the house in Koncha-Zaspa, an elite enclave that includes the country cottages of many of the country's political leaders, when Mr. Kravchenko went into a shed and fired two shots with a pistol registered to him. The first shot went through his chin and out his mouth, Mr. Turchinov said. The second bullet entered his right temple.