Leonid Kuchma   Letter 18   14-Jun-2001   Episode 25

Bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko (center) with President Leonid Kuchma (left) and Health Minister Raissa Bohatyriova (right), September 1999.
"My accusation that you ordered the murder of Hryhory Omelchenko is not what upset you!" — Lubomyr Prytulak

Featured below is a transcript of Episode 25 (on the left in the original mix of Ukrainian and Russian, and on the right in English translation) of the covert tape recording made by Kuchma bodyguard, Major Mykola Melnychenko of the MVS (Ministerstvo Vnutryshnykh Spraw, Ministry of Internal Affairs).  The Episode 25 transcript in Ukrainian-Russian has been published on the Internet on the Radio Svoboda web site (Ukrainian Bureau of RFE/RL, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) at


and also on the Ukrainian Truth web site at


Because of the inaudibility of parts of the tape, and the unintelligibility, and the incoherence, and sometimes hearing only one side of a dialogue, the translation offered below is at times forced to guess at what was being said or what could have been meant.

The dialogue in Episode 25 is mainly between Leonid Kuchma, President of Ukraine, and Leonid Derkach, then head of the SBU (Sluzhba Bezpeky Ukrainy, Security Service of Ukraine, the Ukrainian offshoot of the former Soviet KGB).  As Leonid Kuchma's father's given name is Danylo, Leonid Kuchma is at one point addressed by Derkach using Kuchma's own given name with patronymic — that is, using Leonid Danylovych.  Kuchma sometimes refers to corruption-fighting member of parliament Hryhory Omelchenko using Hrysha, the diminutive of Hryhory.  Kuchma's reference to Oleksander Omelchenko is probably a mistake — Oleksander Omelchenko is the mayor of Kyiv, whereas Kuchma is talking about corruption-fighting member of parliament Hryhory Omelchenko.  Explanatory material that has been added by the Ukrainian Archive is presented between square brackets in red.  Toward the end when Leonid Kuchma is on the telephone, the subject of his discussion seems to be a Ukrainian Archive posting that reproduces, with introductory comments, a RFE/RL Newsline posting:


Allusions to the Melnychenko tapes on which Episode 25 appears have been made in previous letters to Leonid Kuchma, particularly the following:

28-Nov-2000 They've got you on tape!
29-Nov-2000 The Dutch listen to your voice
15-Jan-2001 A tradition of heroism
08-Feb-2001 The NYT proclaims your crimes
23-Feb-2001 Beyond evil — stupid
26-Feb-2001 Fifty Melnychenkos are coming to get you

The Melnychenko tapes are available at their Harvard University web site at www.wcfia.harvard.edu/melnychenko.

      14 June 2001

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

Leonid Kuchma:

My accusation that you ordered the murder of Hryhory Omelchenko is not what upset you!

In your order — whatever it was — concerning me in the concluding paragraph of Episode 25 below, you offer as your reason for the order that I accused you on the Ukrainian Archive web site of contracting the murder of Hryhory Omelchenko, with the implication of course that this accusation was groundless.  You convey the groundlessness of the accusation against you by referring to Hryhory Omelchenko with the diminutive Hrysha Omelchenko, as if he was your pal or buddy, rather than your severest, and most effective, critic.

However, your justification for your order concerning me — whatever it was — is puzzling for three reasons:

  1. The accusation that you had ordered the assassination of Omelchenko had been published on 28-Jul-1999, and here you were raving about it in Episode 25 more than ten months later, on 08-Jun-2000.  Either the information reaching you was delayed, or you managed to stay mad for ten months.

  2. By the Episode 25 date, this particular accusation against you had gone stale — no proof had come forward, nothing more was going to come of it, the world was ready to regard it as an unsubstantiated rumor.

  3. It was Hryhory Omelchenko himself who accused you of ordering his assassination, and it was RFE/RL that published Omelchenko's accusation, and my role had been the limited one of reproducing the RFE/RL statement, adding some introductory comments.  As a large number of people read the RFE/RL statement, and a small number of people read my re-publication of the RFE/RL statement, I really do not deserve much credit — or from your point of view, much blame — for helping disseminate it.

Thus, your railing against me on 08-Jun-2000 for repeating ten months previously what Omelchenko had said, and what RFE/RL had published, calls for some explanation.  Perhaps it is the case that what you were really angry at me for is not re-publishing the RFE/RL article, but rather for publishing one or more of the following conclusions:

  1. that the presidency of Ukraine had been first purchased for you by Americanized Hungarian Jew, George Soros;

  2. that you were suppressing freedom of the press;

  3. that you had destroyed Ukraine's economy;

  4. that you were transforming Ukraine's fledgling democracy into a dictatorship;

  5. that you had handed Ukraine over to be governed by gangsters;

  6. that you had blood on your hands;

  7. that any assassins who worked for you were capable of inculpating you, and had to be killed in their turn to cover the trail of blood;

  8. that your Swiss bank accounts were filled with the Ukrainian people's money;

  9. that one of your concerns was to prevent Pavlo Lazarenko from being tried in the United States where he was capable of revealing that he had been only one gangster in an administration of gangsters headed by yourself;

  10. that it was imperative for you to win the presidency for a second term in order to delay being prosecuted and spending your last days in prison, or even being executed.

Perhaps it is the case, then, that you found the above accusations too painful to repeat — even to your own staff — and so instead offered as justification for ordering action against me — whatever that was — the one accusation that you found least painful — Hryhory Omelchenko's antiquated accusation that you had put out a $500,000 contract on his life.

The picture that emerges, then, is one of your sense of guilt.  Even in front of your own employees, you are ashamed of what you have become, and you dread their hearing what is being said about you.  You parade in front of them only the one accusation which you hope they will agree may be groundless, but you do not dare to mention the long list of accusations which you, and they, and the whole world know to be true.

You have descended into a state of clinical paranoia

I did not organize any of Omelchenko's visits to Canada, did not attend any of his meetings, and was not even aware that he had ever been in Canada.  I have never communicated with Omelchenko, or anyone connected with Omelchenko.  Neither have I ever communicated with Marchuk, or any of his representatives, and so am in no way a member of his team.

Your affirmations to the contrary show that you are unable to distinguish hypothesis from fact.  You have not learned that a conjecture is only a starting point, and needs to be verified against data before being taken as reality.

Seeing Ukraine crippled by a leadership that is unacquainted with the rudimentary intellectual skill of distinguishing a foreboding from an actuality — a leadership, one might say, that is in the grips of paranoia — contributes to our understanding of Ukraine's under-performance, not only in the economic realm, but in every realm.

I am not inciting just the Ukrainian diaspora against you

The Ukrainian diaspora comprises only a tiny minority of Ukrainian Archive visitors, and so it may be said that I am directing my exposés of you not to the Ukrainian diaspora, as we hear you saying in Episode 25 below, but rather to the whole world.  You may well tremble, as it is not just the Ukrainian diaspora that you have to fear — all humanity finds your crimes abhorrent.

Lubomyr Prytulak

Дата запису: 8 червня 2000 року

Примітка: усі тексти розмов подаються українськими літерами майже так, як вони сприймаються на слух.  Під позначкою (…), тобто три крапки в дужках, треба розуміти, що нерозбірливо звучить, скоріш за все, лише одне слово, а під позначкою … (три крапки без дужок) – звучить більше слів.

Увага! Ненормативна лексика! Мовою оригіналу.
Date of recording: 08 June 2000

Note: all transcriptions of the conversations are rendered phonetically into Ukrainian characters.  The notation (...), which is to say three dots between parentheses, signifies that the sound was unintelligible, most likely a single word, whereas the notation ... (three dots without parentheses) signifies more than one unintelligible word.

Warning!  Irregular vocabulary!  Reproduced in the language of the original.
Епізод 25 Episode 25
Президент спілкується з колишнім Головою СБУ Леонідом Деркачем. The President talks to the then head of the SBU, Leonid Derkach.
Кучма:  Ну, шо нового? Kuchma:  So, what's new?
Деркач:  Ну, у-у прєслєдуєм. Derkach:  Well, we're following it up [literally persecuting].
Кучма:  Та, гдє ж? Kuchma:  Then where is it?
? Деркач:  Ну, шо (по підараст ?) (…). ? Derkach:  Well, about (the faggot ?) (...).
Кучма:  Ну, то шо підарасти, (в етой ?), в етом сомнєнія нєт. Тєбє же (так ?). (Више лоб ?). Ти ж, говоріл, шо ви расслєдованіє вєдьотє, кто, кто то дал суду. Kuchma:  Well, they're faggots (in that [place] ?), that's for sure.  You are (called such ?).  (Above the forehead ?).  It was you who said that you were conducting an investigation, who, who turned it over to the court.
Деркач:  (оправдовуючись)  Я отдаю вам всє матєріали (у мєня ?). У мєня (… …), я вам счас, всьо ето, я всьо.. Derkach:  (defensively)  I'm turning over to you all the material (that I have ?).  I have (...), I'm [turning over] to you at this time, all of this, I'm [turning over] everything..
Кучма:  (криком) Нє, но ти мнє скажи на словах! Значіт, кримінальна справа порушена по (…). Kuchma:  (shouting)  No, tell me in words! [orally, right now, rather than in writing later]  This means that a criminal investigation [has been instituted] concerning (...).
Деркач:  (криком, оправдовуючись) Я вам даю фамілію етово чєловєка, на бліжайшіх двух Омєльченко (…) одін Канади. Е-е-е, у мєня счас (со в МІДа єво ?) Канади. По етому – всьо і открито! Derkach:  (shouting defensively)  I'm giving you the surname of that man, the closest of the two is Omelchenko (...) one from Canada.  Uh, I have right now (from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) of Canada.  Because of this, everything is out in the open!
Кучма:  (криком)  Хто сунул в етот самий? Kuchma:  (shouting)  Is this the one who published it?
Деркач:  Хто сунул в Інтернет! Да! Derkach:  The one who published it on the Internet!  Yes!
Кучма:  А как робив? Он тє нє, (ламался ?) разов з дєсять. Kuchma:  But how did he do it?  Didn't he have to (split, break himself ?) tenfold?   [various meanings are conceivable: "Did he fool you?" or perhaps "Hasn't it been broken up to ten times?" or perhaps "Wasn't he pretending?" or perhaps "Did he expect to be asked not to do this?"]
Деркач:  (Да нєт ?), (у ніх канали ?). Derkach:  (Well, no ?), (they've got channels ?) [meaning "they have methods of communication that we haven't been able to penetrate"]
Кучма:  Ну, так он же ссилаєтся на, (сам експерт ?), (казалі, шо ?). Kuchma:  Well, he refers to (the expert himself ?), (they were saying that ?).
Деркач:  (криком, оправдовуючись)  Я вам сєйчас, сєкунду, я вам счас то! Derkach:  (shouting defensively)  I'll presently [show] you, just a second, I'll presently [show] you!
Кучма:  Пускай показанія дают в етот самий. Kuchma:  [And you] let them testify on this thing [the Internet, and did nothing about it?].
Деркач:  Я вам сєйчас обьясню! Derkach:  I'll explain it to you right now!
Кучма:  Харашо! Kuchma:  Good!
Деркач:  Мінуту одну! Я всьо сдєлал, Лєонід Даніловіч! Derkach:  One moment! I have done everything, Leonid Danylovych!
(чути звуковий сигнал, чи то телефону, чи то переговорного пристрою) (one can hear a sound signal, either from a telephone or an intercom)
Кучма:  (Даш тє ? або Здрастє ?). (…) (Наташа ?). Kuchma:  (Good ?).  (...)  (Natasha ?)
Кучма:  (говорить по телефону)  Доброго дня!  Ви ж не забули, (на ?), в сємнадцать трідцать, (сємнадцать трідцать ?).  Значить, у мене до вас є одне питання, одне прохання, таке воно.  Воно од.., в одному вигляді.  (сміється) Є такий Любомир е-е-е Притула!  (пауза)  Канада!  (пауза)  Канада.  (пауза)  Значить, он єдєт.  Значіт, ну, члєн там української діаспори.  Завєдуєт українскім архівом, вродє би так.  Значить, це близький друг Олександра Омєльченка.  (пауза)   (…)  Гріши Омельченка, Гріши Омельченка!  Значить, недавно він вкинув інформацію в Інтернет від свого імені.  Притула цей, що-о я готовлю вбивство Омельченка Гріши.  Да, що я готую, шо я заказав вбивство Омельченка ж.  (пауза)  Так, а пам’ятаєте, значить, колись фільм, ми тут ходили про виступи Омельченка перед українськой діаспорой в Канадє?  Це він також організував.  (пауза)  І він там, я, (агітує насправді ?) діаспору протів мене.  А, а взагалі, це кажуть, все, все Марчука був.., бувша команда.  (на цьому запис обривається) Kuchma:  (speaking on the telephone)  Hello!  You haven't forgotten, (on ?), at seventeen thirty, (seventeen thirty ?).  So, I have one question for you, one request, and here it is.  It has to do with.., from one perspective.  (laughs)  There is a certain Lubomyr uh Prytula!  (pause)  Canada!  (pause)  Canada!  Well, he's on his way.  It means, well, that he is a member of the Ukrainian diaspora there.  He manages the Ukrainian Archive, or something like that.  So, he's a close friend of Oleksander Omelchenko.  (pause)  (...)  Of Hrysha Omelchenko, of Hrysha Omelchenko!  So he recently threw information out on the Internet in his own name.  This Prytula, that I'm preparing the murder of Hrysha Omelchenko.  Yes, that I'm preparing, that I ordered the murder of Omelchenko.  (pause)  Yes, do you remember that film of a while ago, we ran about Omelchenko's appearances before the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada?  He organized that too.  (pause)  And he is (actually inciting ?) the diaspora against me there.  And, and all in all, they say that it's all, all Marchuk's former team.  (at this point, the tape ends)