Kuchma must investigate assault
"When Liachko refused, Kulbachenko beat the journalist severely with his fists, bloodying his face and causing a concussion." — Ann Cooper
The original of this letter, along with a great deal of other invaluable material, can be found on the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) web site.
Please join the CPJ in protesting attacks against journalists in Ukraine by writing Leonid Kuchma at the address below, or faxing him.
April 12, 2000
His Excellency Leonid Kuchma
President of Ukraine
vul. Bankivska 11
Via Fax: 011-380-44-293-7364/291-6161/293-1001
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent beating
of Oleg Liachko, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Svoboda.
We demand that the attack be investigated immediately and that the assailant
— a prominent public official — be held accountable for his actions.
On March 13, Liachko published an article in Svoboda (formerly
Politika), which alleged a series of links between Ukrainian
politicians, state security agencies, and local criminal organizations.
One of the politicians mentioned in the article was Yuri Kulbachenko,
a deputy on the Odessa town council.
On March 31, Kulbachenko called Liachko and invited him to a meeting
that same day in the offices of Prime-Express, a travel agency owned
by Kulbachenko's wife. The agency is located at 23 Ulitsa Shelkovichnaya
At the meeting, Kulbachenko ordered Liachko to reveal his source. When
Liachko refused, Kulbachenko beat the journalist severely with his fists,
bloodying his face and causing a concussion. Another person was present
in the room, but did not participate in the beating. Kulbachenko told
Liachko that he would never leave the office, and that no one would
ever find him.
Fearing for his safety, Liachko promised to write a second article retracting
the allegations he had made about Kulbachenko. After the journalist
was allowed to leave, he immediately sought medical help and contacted
On April 11, the police told Liachko that his file had been closed on
April 6 and that there would be no further investigation into the beating
by Kulbachenko. The police gave no explanation for their decision and
refused to allow Liachko to read his own file. To date, police have
not interviewed Kulbachenko in connection with the attack.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending
press freedom around the world, we are outraged by this attack. Journalists
have the right under your country's Constitution and under international
law to express their views and opinions freely, and the fact that a
public official would go unpunished after using violence to deprive
him of this right calls into question your government's commitment to
The fact that police abruptly closed their investigation of the Liachko
case suggest that they are under political pressure. We demand that
Your Excellency use your good offices to ensure that the prosecutor-general
opens an inquiry immediately. If the charges are substantiated, then
Kulbachenko must be brought to justice.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.
Ann K. Cooper