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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma Denies Murder Allegations

LONDON - Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, facing accusations of involvement in a journalist's murder, has written to a Western newspaper to say he is being smeared by opponents seeking to destabilise the country.

In Tuesday's Financial Times, Kuchma reiterated denials he has made since the publication of a tape on which a voice similar to his orders officials to "get rid" of Georgiy Gongadze, who had criticised Kuchma and his links to businessmen. Police found Gongadze's headless corpse in woods outside the capital Kiev in November. The case has snowballed into the former Soviet state's worst political scandal in years and threatened to damage investment prospects in the country.

"In recent weeks my administration and I have been under attack by accusations of murder and corruption. Although corruption is, in fact, an ongoing problem in my country, accusations of murder...are completely untrue," Kuchma said.

"Even an unbiased observer can see that the provocation against me was made just when the Ukrainian economy started to emerge from crisis."

An economist at a Western bank said Kuchma's letter to the Financial Times came as Ukrainian debt, which in the absence of serious foreign investment is the main barometer of outside interest in Ukraine, had been hit by the political scandal.

"The debt has really suffered in recent weeks due to growing interest in the story." the economist said.

Kuchma reiterated in his letter that Gongadze's killers should be brought to justice.

Prosecutors, whom opposition politicians accuse of seeking to cover up the case, on Monday finally agreed the headless corpse was Gongadze's after saying for months that the journalist might still be alive.

"In any country the death of a journalist is a major tragedy. We in Ukraine believe that freedom of the press is an integral feature of a democratic country," Kuchma said.

"Some politicians in Ukraine turned (Gongadze's) apparently tragic fate into a political weapon designed to destabilise Ukraine," he said.

Kuchma has repeatedly said the scandal threatens Ukraine's national security. He has said that thousands of demonstrators who have marched through Kiev in recent weeks, calling for him to resign, remind him of Nazis.