Political Rival Predicts Scandal Will Oust President
Sands, David R., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
A leading Ukrainian politician yesterday predicted that embattled President Leonid Kuchma will be driven from office within months, a victim of the gravest political scandal the country has faced since gaining independence.
"The crisis will be over by the end of May or early June," Oleksandr Moroz, chairman of Ukraine's Socialist Party, said at the start of a Washington visit yesterday.
Mr. Kuchma, a onetime Communist Party functionary who has been president since 1994, is battling to hold on to power in the face of charges that he ordered the killing last fall of investigative journalist Georgy Gongadze, whose headless corpse was discovered in November at a site outside Kiev.
Mr. Moroz, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Kuchma in the 1998 presidential elections, has played a central role in the scandal. It was the Socialist lawmaker who first made public secret tapes of the president and his associates. They were made by a Kuchma military bodyguard who has since fled the country, apparently implicating Mr. Kuchma in the Gongadze killing.
Mr. Kuchma repeatedly has denied any role in the affair or in other instances of corruption detailed in the tapes, blaming the scandal on political opponents at home bolstered by unspecified "shadow money" from abroad.
"It is not by chance that my main accusers are precisely the same people who have blocked Ukraine's transformation to a free-market economy," Mr. Kuchma said in a letter published in yesterday's Financial Times.
Ukrainian prosecutors yesterday announced they were initiating a murder investigation in the death of Mr. Gongadze, whose body was positively identified by investigators Monday. …