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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foes Likely to Haunt Kuchma Retirement

KIEV -- As former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma settles into a quiet retirement, his future is in the hands of some of his fiercest political enemies, who accuse him of misdeeds ranging from corruption to ordering the murder of a journalist.

President Viktor Yushchenko, sacked by Kuchma in acrimony as prime minister in 2000, is already cranking up the pressure. He has unleashed his government to pick through sales of state property and alleged "insider" deals under the previous regime. Even Kuchma's retirement package -- fat pension, two cars, cook, maid and much more -- is under investigation. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whom Kuchma once had thrown in jail, ordered the government to come up with a new, slimmed-down version, to be presented to the Cabinet on Wednesday.

But the real specter haunting Kuchma's future is Heorhiy Gongadze. Gongadze, a journalist who ran a popular Internet news site highly critical of the government, was abducted in 2000. His headless corpse was found later.

Kuchma insists he had nothing to do with Gongadze's abduction. But the case has become Ukraine's cause celebre, and Yushchenko may have no choice but to pursue it, even if he is not out for vengeance and would rather the 66-year-old Kuchma faded into comfortable obscurity. The new interior minister, Yury Lyutsenko, was one of those who joined the street rallies in 2000 for Kuchma's impeachment over the journalist's killing. Heorhiy Omelchenko, one of Kuchma's most aggressive parliamentary foes, has formally requested the arrest of Kuchma. So far, the prosecutor's office has not responded.

Oleksandr Lytvynenko, an analyst at Kiev's Razumkov think tank, said that while Kuchma was not protected by a formal immunity, there was an "unofficial immunity for ex-presidents," which he does not expect Yushchenko to encroach upon.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, also senses that Yushchenko would rather leave Kuchma in honorable retirement and "establish the pattern that there is life after politics."

Kuchma's problem is, the new government says the previous one exceeded its powers in bypassing parliament and giving Kuchma a deal that includes a monthly salary of 8,293 hryvna ($1,560), and allows him and wife, Lyudmyla, to keep their government-owned home in Ukraine's most exclusive enclave.

Meanwhile, Tymoshenko has begun the process of taking the Krivoryzhstal steel mill out of the hands of a consortium which includes Kuchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk.

Prosecutors are sifting through other major privatization deals and financial transactions, a probe that is likely to focus on the wealthy clique of businessmen close to Kuchma.

Still, those close to Kuchma insist he is not worried. "He is optimistic," Pinchuk said. "I think he's expecting a normal, full life as a member of the club of ex-presidents."

Kuchma arrived in the Czech Republic on Tuesday for a private visit to a spa, the Ukrainian Embassy said.