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05/27/2004 | peter byrne


In Bonn, Tapegate lives again
By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
May 27, 2004 09:52

(Courtesy photo)

Every Ivan has a plan: Volodymyr Tsvil, a former advisor to Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, told a German news service this week that top-ranking colleagues of President Kuchma were aware that the presidents office was bugged during 1999 and 20

A former advisor to Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz on May 25 called on top officials to reveal what they know about scandalous recordings made in President Leonid Kuchmas office during the years 1999 to 2000.

Volodymr Tsvil told Deutsche Welles Ukrainian-language Service that Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk, National Security and Defense Council Chairman Volodymyr Radchenko, and State Security Service (SBU) chief Ihor Smeshko were aware that conversations in President Leonid Kuchmas office were being secretly recorded during 1999 and 2000.

Tsvil told the Post on May 26 from Germany that he had more than enough evidence to back up his allegations.

Every Ivan has a plan was all he would tell the Post when asked to provide details, show proof, or give a reason why he hadnt come out with the information earlier.

The SBU press service declined to comment when contacted on May 26.

Maria Kopylenko, who taped the Tsvil in the radio stations bureau in Bonn, Germany, told the Post May 26 that she had met Tsvil through Mykola Melnychenko, the former presidential guard who allegedly made the recordings before fleeing the country in November 2000.

The revelations, if proven, could revive interest in the notorious so-called Melnychenko recordings, which allegedly contain hundreds of hours of conversations allegedly implicating the president and other top officials in the death of muckraking journalist Georgy Gongadze, the incarceration of banker Borys Feldman, and other widely-publicized matters.

Silencing a journalist

On Nov 2, 2000, a beheaded corpse now widely believed to be Gongadze was discovered in a shallow grave near the home town and election district of Moroz. Gongadze, the founder of the Web site Ukrainska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth), vanished in Kyiv on Sept. 16, 2000. Melnychenko, who claims he secretly recorded Kuchma when he worked for the president in the late 1990s and 2000, was issued a passport to travel abroad on the same day. His wife Lilia and daughter Lesya received their passports on Oct. 28, 2000. Two weeks earlier, the whistleblower presented opposition leader Moroz with samples of secret recordings implicating Kuchma in the journalists abduction and other crimes. Moroz released snippets of the recordings on Nov. 28, 2000, touching off months of street protests leading to Ukraines worst political crisis ever.

Fleeing abroad

In an extensive interview given that he gave in early 2002, Tsvil claimed he brought Melnychenko to the Czech Republic in November to sit out the Kyiv protests demanding Kuchmas resignation.Moroz first asked Tsvil to help Melnychenkos family eight months before Gongadze disappeared, but those plans changed in late October 2000 when Moroz gave instructions to evacuate the guard. Tsvil said that he helped obtain visas for Melnychenko and brought him to the Western Ukrainian town of Lviv on Nov. 24, 2000. Two days later, Melnychenko, his wife and daughter took a bus across the Polish border.Carrying a diplomatic passport, Tsvil trailed behind in his jeep with Melnychenkos computer and a plastic bag containing digital audio discs. Believing that Moroz would reap the political dividends of the scandal, which many hoped would topple Kuchma from power, Tsvil had agreed with Volodymr Boldanyuk, a far-flung relative in Ostrava, Moravia, to hide Melnychenko and his family.

Public relations blitz

Tsvil, it has been alleged, then contacted Hanna Herman, a journalist working at that time for Radio Free Liberty/Radio Libertys Polish Bureau. Herman was among the first foreign journalists to assist Melnychenko. I think that Gongadze is still alive, Melnychenko yelled into a mobile phone in the first of series of exclusive on air interviews with the station on Dec. 30, 2000. I dont have proof that [Gongadze] is dead, but I do have proof that he was eliminated. Kuchma ordered it. He was very worried after Gongadze disappeared. Herman, who now works as the press secretary for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, would not comment on this interview. Neither would her office, which referred the Post to Kyivs RFE/RL bureau, which then referred the Post to bureau chief Oleksandr Narodetsky in Prague.I dont know who was there or where the interview took place, Narodetsky said. Melnychenko in early 2001 insisted on taking a lie-detector test for Americas most popular Sunday evening news program, 60 Minutes, after Tsvil helped arrange the filming session. The former guard explained to the network that he had suffered bouts of retrograde amnesia after being concussed in 1985.I hid this fact from military doctors, Melnychenko wrote. I am informing you of this in case it affects the results of the test.Melnychenko also said he would refuse to answer politically sensitive questions during the exam, which CBS eventually scrapped. The station interviewed him in late March 2001. By the time the Melnychenko interview aired on April 29, 2001, Melnychenko had literally become a household figure in the West thanks in part to Tsvil, who arranged secret interviews with Melnychenko for leading journalists from The Daily Telegraph, RFE/RL and The New York Times. The stories portrayed the whistleblower as a truth-seeking crusader who was spending his waking hours transcribing the recordings in his possession. The U.S. State Department announced on April 13, 2001, that it had granted refugee status to Melnychenko and his family. The guard and his family left for the U.S. on Easter Sunday, April 15, 2001, with a closed packet of documents. The recordings stayed behind. Asked whether he knows where the recordings went, Tsvil said, Yes.There are several people, including myself, who know where they are, he said.

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