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07/14/2004 | peter byrne

Tapegate's Tsvil will 'turn Ukraine on its head'

Ukraine's former consul to Germany announced July 14 he'll tell all about the secret recordings made in President Leonid Kuchma's office in 1999 and 2000.

Volodymyr Tsvil, a former top advisor to Socialist Party leader and presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz, predicted July 14 that unflattering facts from the controversial so-called "Melnychenko tapes" will "turn Ukraine on its head."

The 42-year-old native of Ivano-Frankivsk oblast told the Post in a series of recorded interviews in late June that former presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko has repeatedly sought meetings with presidential officials to negotiate terms for bringing back to Ukraine the explosive recordings, which allegedly contain material implicating Kuchma and other top officials of crimes including the abduction of beheaded opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze.

He said that on Feb. 20 he helped the guard to arrange one such meeting with Presidential Administration deputy head Serhy Levochkin and Presidential Security Chief Volodymr Lyashko in Berlin's Hilton Hotel.

"Both men then met with Melnychenko again in Vienna," Tsvil said, who escorted the former guard there a day before the secret meeting.

"Melnychenko wanted to take a look at the sauna where the meeting was to take place, so that people could relax, not be recorded, and not look at one another," Tsvil explained, backing up his story with diary entries and photographs.

Levochkin and his staff on June 30 asked the Post for a copy of this article before they would provided comment. The Presidential Administration switchboard could not provide any contact information for Lyashko.

Leading Ukrainian journalists and opposition politicians, along with most foreign correspondents covering the long-running scandal of the allegedly incriminating tapes, still present Melnychenko as a whistle-blowing hero. Few Kuchma critics have asked whether the guard could have been manipulated by other political forces into leaking recordings in an attempt to implicate the president in Gongadze's murder.

Veteran General Valery Kravchenko of Ukraine's State Security Service (SBU), who first met Tsvil in December 2000 on the instructions of former SBU chief Volodymyr Radchenko, corroborated Tsvil's story to the Post.

"The recordings released so far have not helped identify who ordered the abduction and murder of Georgy Gongadze," Tsvil told Ukrainska Pravda on July 14. "The scandal has brought no good to the president, the opposition, society, or the state."

Tsvil and Kravchenko are currently putting into writing what they know about the sordid affair. Their story dispels the widely-held notion by some leading Western journalists that Melnychenko is a hero and instead details the bungling attempts of foreign intelligence operatives, their Ukrainian counterparts, Ukrainian politicians and government officials to sort out the mess.

"I have been silent for four years, watching the scandal eat away at both Melnychenko and Kuchma," Tsvil lamented, saying that he wanted to unburden himself of the truth.

He emphasized that the decision to go public is not connected with the presidential elections, but said he hoped that the truth would help Ukrainians make an informed choice on Oct. 31.

"I believe that it is time for me to help untangle the convoluted strands of the scandal. And that is exactly what Valery Kravchenko and I are doing now, together, with you here," he said.

Tsvil maintains that Moroz asked him in early 2000 to make arrangements to smuggle Melnychenko out of Ukraine.

"I met with him five or six times during the spring and summer of 2000 to discuss preparations," Tsvil said, who added that the 30 to 50 compact discs comprising Melnychenko's audio archive stayed behind after he and his family received refugee status in the United States.

On June 27, Tvsil presented the Post with what he described as "an original Melnychenko CD" at Munich's legendary Hofbrau Haus.

The 650 megabyte disc that was given contains 15 compressed (ZIP) files containing wave format audio recordings dated October, 2000. The handwriting on the disk label resembles Melnychenko's handwriting.

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