Leonid Kuchma   Letter 10   13-Jan-2001   The rules of probability

January 13, 2001

Leonid Kuchma, President
vul. Bankova, 7
Kyiv, 252005

Leonid Kuchma:

Mykhailo Potebenko
(1) DNA.  In the following excerpts from a Kyiv Post report, Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko is quoted as referring to "rules of probability" which indicate that "four out of 1,000" people in the general population share the same DNA characteristics as the Tarashcha body a fraction not small enough to justify identifying the body as that of Heorhy Gongadze:

Long-awaited DNA results indicate a 99.6 percent likelihood that a headless corpse found south of Kyiv on Nov. 2 is the body of missing journalist Georgy Gongadze, Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko reported to a packed parliament on Jan. 10.  [...]  "According to rules of probability, four out of 1,000 randomly selected women would have the same molecular genetic characteristics as the unidentified man whose DNA was analyzed," Potebenko explained. [...]  However, the top prosecutor said he still has doubts that the body belongs to Gongadze, noting that several witnesses reported seeing Gongadze alive after he disappeared.  [...]  Since it is impossible to identify the remains with 100 percent certainty, technically the corpse is considered "unidentified."
Olga Kryzhanovska, DNA indicates Gongadze match, Kyiv Post, 12-Jan-2001, bold emphasis added.

However, it would appear that Mykhailo Potebenko's "rules of probability" analysis should be considered as only the first step of a longer analysis that needs to be carried to completion.

(2) Shrapnel.  To begin, we know that Heorhy Gongadze had shrapnel fragments in his left arm, and that the Tarashcha body had shrapnel fragments in its left arm.  How many people in all of Ukraine are alive today with shrapnel fragments embedded in their left arms?  Possibly none but let us be generous, and imagine that five such people could be found.  That makes for a probability of approximately 5/50,000,000 = 1/10,000,000.

(3) Jewellery.  But we also know that the Tarashcha body had the ring, bracelet, and amulet that belonged to Heorhy Gongadze.  How many people in all of Ukraine can be found at any one time wearing exactly this same ring, this same bracelet, and this same amulet?  Probably none but let us be generous and imagine that five such people exist.  That also makes for a probability of approximately 5/50,000,000 = 1/10,000,000.

(4) Sex.  And we also know that the Tarashcha body was male, and that approximately 1/2 of the people in Ukraine are male.

One could list still other characteristics that are shared by Heorhy Gongadze and the Tarashcha body, such as that of age and height and geographical location and disappearance but it is not necessary to do so.  Let us instead stop at this point to make some "rules of probability" calculations.

Fresh calculation of probability.  If the four characteristics mentioned above are independent, then to find the probability of a random inhabitant of Ukraine possessing all four of them, we would have to multiply as below, where we start with the DNA probability of 4/1,000 = 1/250:

(1/250) (1/10,000,000) (1/10,000,000) (1/2) = 1/50,000,000,000,000,000

The number 50,000,000,000,000,000 is very large, and is not readily nameable.  If we divide this very large number by 50 million the approximate population of Ukraine then we find that it would take one billion Ukraines to create 50,000,000,000,000,000 people.

So, then, what the "rules of probability" applied more comprehensively appear to tell us is that if we were to look through all the people in one billion Ukraines, we would expect to find only a single individual who had the four characteristics of Heorhy Gongadze that we listed above.

Not a probability, but a certainty.  In the practical world or in the world of law, this is what is known as a certainty.  It is a certainty that the Tarashcha body is that of Heorhy Gongadze.  Even if the estimates of probability above were revised, and even if the assumption of independence of characteristics had to be revised as well (shrapnel fragments are found more often in men, for example), the denominator of the probability calculation above would continue to be so astronomical that our conclusion would continue to be the same that it is a certainty that the Tarashcha body is that of Heorhy Gongadze.

An incomplete application of the "rules of probability" merely supports the view that Ukraine is ruled by gangsters.  Mykhailo Potebenko's stating that a probability of 4/1000 = 1/250 is insufficient to prove that the Tarashcha body is that of Heorhy Gongadze fails to complete the line of reasoning that it sets out on.  His refusal to acknowledge that the Tarashcha body is that of Heorhy Gongadze encourages the conclusion that he is acting not as the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, but as a representative of the Leonid Kuchma mafia clan which is responsible for Heorhy Gongadze's assassination.

Lubomyr Prytulak