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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma Linked to Journalist's Disappearance

KIEV, Ukraine - President Leonid Kuchma may be linked to the disappearance of an opposition-minded journalist, an opposition leader claimed Tuesday.

Oleksandr Moroz, who heads Ukraine's Socialist Party, said he came into possession of an audio recording which he described as supposedly documenting conversations between Kuchma, presidential chief of staff Volodymyr Lytvyn, and Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko.

The poor-quality and barely understandable recording appeared to contain no incriminating references to the missing journalist, Heorhiy Gongadze. But Moroz, who played it to reporters, insisted that a detailed examination will allegedly show it to be ?the order and the report on its implementation.?

Kuchma's office said in response that Moroz's statements ?had no grounds whatsoever and were full insinuations,? adding that Kuchma reserved the right to protect himself in court from such ?insults and slander.? There were more questions than answers about the mysterious tape.

Moroz said the tape was provided by an unnamed officer from Ukraine's SBU security service and said unspecified foreign experts have confirmed the material as authentic.

Gongadze, 31, went missing Sept. 16 in Ukraine's capital Kiev on his way home from work. He edited the Internet newsletter Ukrainska Pravda and had a program on independent Radio Kontinent. Gongadze was an outspoken critic of the government and of alleged high-level corruption.

Journalists and legislators said he had most likely been the victim of a politically motivated attack.

Earlier this month, police found a beheaded body in a forest near Kiev, and were checking whether it was that of Gongadze. Last week, a severed human head was found in the same region, but investigators said the badly damaged head appeared to belong to a woman.

Moroz said his charges should not be viewed as a personal attack on Kuchma. The Socialist Party leader and former parliament speaker ran against Kuchma in last year's presidential race, but was kicked out in the first round.

Kuchma's office, in its statement, said Moroz made his allegations because he was driven by a desire to boost his declining popularity.