Pukach confessed but said he had acted on the orders of the late Interior Minister, Yuri Kravchenko. Kravchenko was found dead with gunshot wounds in 2005, in what was officially described as a suicide, just as he was about to be questioned. Questions have been asked about how he managed to shoot himself twice in the head.
Gongadze’s killing is widely considered a catalyst for the political unrest that culminated in the Orange Revolution of 2004 that ended the authoritarian rule of President Leonid Kuchma.
The co-founder of an investigative news website who exposed high-level corruption, Gongadze was kidnapped in September, 2000 and his decapitated body was discovered in a forest on the outskirts of Kiev several months later.
Gongadze’s widow considers Pukach’s sentence “adequate,” but planned to appeal the verdict because she suspects more senior officials gave the order to kill her husband. “To be honest, to me it is a certain signal that the current [Ukrainian] government wants to finish the case of Gongadze punishing the executors of the crime only,” Myroslava Gongadze* (right) told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service. “Nevertheless, today the Prosecutor’s Office continues investigating who ordered the crime. Unfortunately, we, as victims, do not have information on what is going on in that investigation,” she said. “Now we consider appealing the verdict [Pukach], only over the motives of the crime, because we believe that the crime was ordered and we want to bring the people who were named by Pukach to justice.” Myroslava Gongadze was a 2001-2002 Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C.