pro hannu

05/31/2004 | peter byrne

Public relations blitz

Tsvil, it has been alleged, then contacted Hanna Herman, a journalist working at that time for Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty's 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 don't 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 Kyiv's RFE/RL bureau, which then referred the Post to bureau chief Oleksandr Narodetsky in Prague."I don't know who was there or where the interview took place," Narodetsky said.

Melnychenko in early 2001 insisted on taking a lie-detector test for America's 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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