Morley Safer   Letter 11   30-Jun-1999   Who murdered Vadim Boyko?
We cannot believe that his death was just pure accident; although it is reported that 8,000 people a year in the former Soviet Union die due to their television sets exploding, we all believe that Vadim would have survived this kind of accident.
June 30, 1999

Morley Safer
60 Minutes, CBS Television
51 W 52nd Street
New York, NY
USA       10019

Morley Safer:

The conclusion that you offered in your 23Oct94 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom was that Ukraine is a place where Jews and Russians are oppressed by militant Ukrainian nationalists, and where they are the targets of Ukrainian violence.  The closest that you came to substantiating this claim was to broadcast Rabbi Bleich's allegation that an elderly Jewish couple had been attacked and robbed somewhere in Western Ukraine.  However, this allegation was devoid of substantiating detail, and my request for specifics (both in my letter to you of 24May98, and in my letter to Rabbi Bleich of 23May98) was answered with silence.  I repeat that request to you now please inform me of the details of this attack, which minimally would include the time, the place, the names of the victims, and the address where a police report is available.  If you do not have such information, please retract the allegation.

You must be aware that I. M. Levitas, Head of the Jewish Council of Ukraine as well as of the Nationalities Associations of Ukraine has questioned whether such an attack on the two elderly Jews ever took place.  Levitas's doubt was first expressed in an open letter to you, and I reminded Rabbi Bleich of it in my letter to him of 23May98, of which you were mailed a copy.  In view of I. M. Levitas's doubt, and in view of your and Rabbi Bleich's silence in response to my request for particulars, the impression grows daily stronger that you and Rabbi Bleich made the incident up.

The chief purpose of the present letter is to demonstrate to you yet again that your conclusion which I summarize in my first sentence at the beginning of the present letter is exactly backward.  Ukraine is not a place where Ukrainians attack and murder, it is a place where Ukrainians are attacked and murdered, as has been the case for the last three hundred years, at least.  Below is documented one further instance in support of this conclusion.  It is the story of Vadim Boyko, member of parliament, and popular television investigative journalist.  I would have expected that the story of Vadim Boyko would have appealed to you, and for that reason that you might have included it in any broadcast that you prepared about Ukraine, as his life at least up to the final moments was not unlike your own:

External link to Ukrainian Weekly web site

February 23, 1992

Journalist's notebook in Ukraine
by Marta Kolomayets
Kiev Press Bureau

A colleague's tragic death

"He was a man engaged to a young Ukraine," said Volodymyr Yavorivsky, as he bid farewell to Vadim Boyko, who died tragically on February 14, at the age of 29.

Hundreds of mourners crowded into the third floor atrium of the Ukrainian State Television and Radio headquarters, tearfully passing each other on the steps Vadim so often bounded, rushing to the studios where he recorded his popular television programs.

Now, on February 17, the mourners paid their last respects to Vadik (as he was affectionately known), searching for a reason why such a promising, talented life was cut short.  As slow dirge-like music played over the loudspeakers, they filed past the closed coffin, sewn up in black cotton and laden with bunches of carnations of all colors.

At the foot of the coffin stood a black and white photo of the young journalist and politician.  An enlarged copy of the same photo, decorated with a black mourning band, hung above the coffin.  To the left, the newly adopted Ukrainian national flag, also decorated with black bunting, kept guard over its native son.  Wreaths from the Ukrainian Parliament, co-workers and friends surrounded the coffin.  Perhaps as a carryover from the Communist-atheist state of the past, the wake of devoid of all Christian symbols and rites.

Vadim's father sat at the foot of the coffin, numb to the proceedings.  As a few speakers addressed the crowd, he wiped tears away from his weary, red eyes.  Vadim's mother was too weak to make the trip from the family's home in Svitlovodsk to Kiev.

Mykola Okhmakevych, the stagnant, Communist head of the State Television and Radio, whose removal has been pressed for by both democratic deputies and workers of the television station, said a few uninspiring words.  Often harshly criticized by Vadim and his colleagues, Mr. Okhmakevych now spoke of how Vadim had always loved his job.  An angry mourner, who saw this hypocrisy, cried out: "He loved Ukraine above all.  He loved Ukraine, say it."

We all descended the steps with Vadim for the last time.  The coffin was then placed in a vehicle for Vadim's journey home to Svitlovodsk, Kirovohrad Oblast, his final resting place.


It has been almost a week now since my phone rang just before midnight, on Valentine's Day, February 14.  It was my friend and colleague Dmytro Ponamarchuk.  Yet his voice sounded different.

"I don't know how to say this, Marta.  Vadim Boyko burned to death tonight."  I could not believe what I was hearing: "What is this, a cruel joke?"

Dmytro, working at the radio station, had been called about a fire at Vadim's apartment; the fire department reported that his television had blown up.  Dmytro arrived at the scene just an hour or so after the reported fire, only to find Vadim's body sprawled across the floor, burned beyond recognition.  There was nothing left of his apartment, a dormitory-type dwelling in a building that housed quite a number of State television and Radio workers.

News of Vadim's death spread quickly among fellow journalists many of whom had attended Kiev State with Vadim, many of whom worked with him on numerous projects.

He was an elected democratic deputy from Kremenchuk, Poltava Oblast.  He had come from the neighboring town in Kirovohrad oblast, just across the Dnipro River, arriving in the capital city of Kiev in the early 1980s to obtain a college education.

And from then on, he gained popularity as the founder and host of "Hart," one of the first serious investigative shows on Ukrainian television, reporting on everything from Chornobyl to Shcherbytsky.

After he was elected a deputy to the Ukrainian Parliament in March 1990, he was appointed vice chairman of the standing parliamentary Committee on Glasnost and the Mass Media, a job he took very seriously, often going to Moscow to discuss problems of disinformation in Ukraine, as presented by central television.

But Vadim never forgot his first vocation journalism and he would often join his colleagues, including a few of us foreign correspondents, on the press balcony of Parliament during the sessions to give us some inside news or highlights of his commission's work.

He was our friend, and with his death, our circle has been broken.  Many of us Ukrainian journalists and foreign correspondents, as well as a few of his close friends outside this journalistic fraternity spent last week trying to come to terms with the tragedy that has struck us.

We cannot believe that his death was just pure accident; although it is reported that 8,000 people a year in the former Soviet Union die due to their television sets exploding, we all believe that Vadim would have survived this kind of accident.

We have gone through the story over and over.  Most of us saw him in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon; he was excited and invigorated by new opportunities: he was applying for a National Foundation internship for the spring in Washington, D.C., he was going to travel on business with Ukraine's deputy prime minister.  His dancing blue eyes were smitten with the possibilities of new TV shows and programs in an independent Ukraine.

None of us saw Vadim in Parliament on Thursday or Friday, February 13-14; he missed a few meetings he had scheduled on Friday.

Currently, there are many rumors flying around Kiev surrounding Vadim's death, based on political, business and personal motivations.  Parliamentary committees have promised to work on an investigation, although no special committee has been formed to investigate what many democratic deputies, among them Les Taniuk and Stepan Khmara, have labelled as murder.  Some speculate that Vadim's TV work in Chornobyl may have triggered an early death...

On Friday, February 14, Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper) in Moscow ran an interview with Vadim on journalists' responsibilities and cooperation between Moscow and Kiev.

"At this time, we (referring to Russian and Ukrainian journalists) can be friends, if we are honest to the end.  We are currently living in a commonwealth, the root of the word is found in the word "druh," friend...  We will never become true friends, until we journalists understand that we are the ones who can, who have the responsibility to stop our peoples from total degradation, from the catastrophe that can occur between our peoples," he said.  "If we cannot prevent this we stop being journalists.  We will become persons who today do their work and tomorrow, one by one, are destroyed."

Vadim's deep sense of responsibility, his courage and commitment to the truth will always be admired by his friends and colleagues.  And we are all committed to learning the truth.

Given the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, I can only hope that his last interview prophecy did not become self-fulfilling.

Mr. Safer, you travelled to Ukraine looking for stories of persecution and violence against Jews and Russians, you failed to find the evidence, but you broadcast the story anyway.  All the while, you were surrounded by stories of persecution and violence against Ukrainians, but that plentiful evidence you ignored.  In other words, you went to Ukraine not to discover its reality, but to confirm your prejudice.  You played the role not of journalist, but of propagandist.  Given the opportunity to make a contribution toward protecting the lives of journalists in Ukraine by broadcasting the story of Vadim Boyko, you declined.  Showing anything on 60 Minutes that might win sympathy for Ukrainians was contrary to your plan.

Had you managed to find a Jewish member of parliament and television broadcaster who had died in Ukraine under mysterious circumstances, then you would have had one small piece of evidence for the anti-Ukrainian conclusions that you offered.  Had you managed to find a Russian member of parliament and television broadcaster who had died in Ukraine under mysterious circumstances, then you would have had one small piece of evidence for the anti-Ukrainian conclusions that you offered.  However, you found neither of these things.  In Ukraine, death under mysterious circumstances is reserved for prominent Ukrainians, which conclusion you had no interest in broadcasting.

Below, I identify four incidents which I have brought to your attention either in three earlier letters, or in the present one.  Although the first two cases occurred before your broadcast of 23Oct94, and the second two occurred after, all serve to support the conclusion that within today's Ukraine, it is Ukrainians who are the targets of violence:

Date of my letter Subject of my letter Date of Attack
Violence that you should have reported in your 23Oct94 The Ugly Face of Freedom
15May99 Who murdered Volodymyr Ivasiuk? April 1979
30Jun99 Who murdered Vadim Boyko? February 14, 1992
Violence that you might have caused by your 23Oct94 The Ugly Face of Freedom
09Apr99 Who blew the hands off Maksym Tsarenko? Summer 1995
17May99 Who murdered Volodymyr Katelnytsky? July 7-8, 1997

As the first two of the above attacks occurred prior to your 23Oct94 broadcast, then your fault is that you neglected to report them.  And as the second two attacks occurred after your 23Oct94 broadcast, then your fault is that you may have helped cause them.  That is, your 23Oct94 broadcast, The Ugly Face of Freedom, served to demonstrate to Ukraine's assassins not only that violence against Ukrainians would go unreported in the world press, but also that even as Ukrainians continued to be butchered, the world press would portray them the victim Ukrainians as themselves butchers.  You did not yourself wield any knife or pull any trigger or tighten any garotte, but you informed those that were predisposed to do so that they might expect impunity if they did.  For this reason, I consider you to have blood on your hands, some of it Maksym Tsarenko's, and some of it Volodymyr Katelnytsky's.

Lubomyr Prytulak

cc:  Yaakov Bleich, Ed Bradley, Jeffrey Fager, Don Hewitt, Steve Kroft, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace, Simon Wiesenthal.