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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Schroder Gets Assurances on Gongadze Probe

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had promised to investigate the disappearance of a journalist who ran an Internet site critical of the president.

"The president has agreed to do everything possible to clear up the case of the murdered journalist," Schroeder said at a joint news conference with Kuchma on Friday in Berlin.

Kuchma has come under fire from left-wing and opposition deputies in parliament over the disappearance of Georgy Gongadze.

A decapitated corpse found in November outside Kiev is thought to be that of the critical Internet journalist, although prosecutors say they cannot be sure. Parliament has heard tapes, which prosecutors say are fakes, that allegedly document how Kuchma discussed sidelining Gongadze.

Kuchma, who denies any role in the affair, said Friday that he was not satisfied with the results of the current investigation into Gongadze’s fate, saying he would only be happy when those responsible were caught.

"I reject the attempt to make a criminal case into a political issue," Kuchma said through an interpreter. "I want to assure you that as the guarantor of the Ukrainian constitution I will secure freedom of speech," he said.

Kuchma said those pursuing the scandal did not only want to discredit him, but also undermine the reforms he is driving, increase an atmosphere of political confrontation and bring fear and hopelessness to the people of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s parliament delayed a vote on amending the constitution on Thursday in a new blow to moves by Kuchma to increase his power over the chamber in planned changes supported last year in a national referendum.