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Asphalt that was used to entomb the story about the tape affair is called political expediency. Bombastic official statements, obstreperous press conferences, pompous catchwords, and false preelection promises are nothing else but the asphalt of propaganda campaigns and technologies that the politicians craftily wielded while trying to tailor the tape affair to their own petty needs.
They were hiding behind a high goal: punish those guilty in the assassination of journalist Georgiy Gongadze and, at the same time, conceal the truth to meet their political ends. They knowingly warped the true circumstances around events that, by a twist of fortune, were witnessed by me and my family. The truth is that people who volunteered for the crusade to seek the truth in the Gongadze affair have been guided in their actions by down-to-earth common instincts: curiosity, greed, envy, revenge, and hatred.
And they are only rarely guided by higher motives: justice, responsibility, civic duty, and patriotism. Over the last years, Major Melnychenko and his records gave growth to various, sometimes most unthinkable, legends. Possessing a multitude of details that shed light on the genuine history behind the tape affair, I decided to write this book. I hope it will allow me to get rid of the paramount responsibility, primarily to myself and my conscience.
While I was toiling over this manuscript, I was frequently called by family and friends. They would ask, Volodia, what are you up? Who are you working for? Who would need your book? The number of telephone calls snowballed by the day. I was approached by people who knew about my role in the fate of Major Melnychenko. The content of the tape affair book attracted politicians and journalists alike.
All of them were honestly trying to help me with advice. Some of them pleaded with me not to criticize Melnychenko, saying what he did for Ukrainian was a tremendous feat. The others insisted that I should not touch Kuchma, because his time as Ukrainian President is about to expire and all he deserves now is sympathy. The third tried to make me repent. At last, I had a call from my brother in Ivano-Frankovsk who said this: Volodia, I just want to ask you about one thing.
Be honest. Forget all hurt feelings. Do not try to get back or settle old scores. Write in a way that your book remains readable in ten or twenty years. Then it will serve the cause of Ukraine. My book is indeed written with all my heart. With leniency and sympathy to Mykola Melnychenko, as a big and untidy child against who you cannot hold a grudge but who you can and must chide. I have written with understanding to Alexander Moroz. I still notwithstanding all that has happened consider him to be a man of strong personality—personality that was roughly tampered with by the harsh reality called Ukrainian politics.
I understand in what a precarious position he has driven himself by accepting once to cooperate with Melnychenko. I have written in an objective manner toward my new acquaintances whom I came to know over the time of the tape affair. However, I must admit that this book was written first of all with great love to my readers—all people in Ukraine who all these years would not lose hope to get to the bottom line of what has happened.
Writing this book was not difficult.
Kuchmagate by Volodymyr Tsvil - Read Online
Telling the truth is always an easy and pleasant thing, because nothing was to be invented. In fact, the close circle of persons who know most about Major Melnychenko and his records include me, Volodymyr Tsvil, and the godfather of my junior daughter, Volodymyr Boldaniuk.
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In late fall of , I brought Mykola Melnychenko from Ukraine and Boldaniuk hid him abroad for four and a half months. A citizen of the Czech Republic, Volodymyr Boldaniuk still holds the entire archive of records that have been made in the office of the Ukrainian ex-president. He is a friend of mine who lives in the city of Ostrava, the administrative hub of the industrial Northern Moravia. This region is home to multiple metallurgic and electric power plants, as well as coal mines. Incidentally, Ostrava was once a sister city to Donetsk.
In the Ukrainian tongue, Boldaniuk was one of those Moravian folks—a reputable local businessman. By the time the events around Major Melnychenko started to become hectic, Volodymyr was working as a manager in Union Leasing, the branch of a powerful Northern Moravian Energy concern. His financial standing was solid as a rock, and his business, remarkably, had nothing to do with Ukraine.
This put him in a position of independent observer during the tape affair. Volodia, being of Ukrainian ancestry, took all that happened here close to his heart. The portrait of Taras Shevchenko hung in his apartment since time immemorial. His father came from Transcarpathian Rahovsky Region, a part of prewar Czechoslovakia.
I grew up on the other side of the Carpathian Mountains in the well-to-do Ivano-Frankovsk village. Since early childhood, my ambition was to become a doctor. After my daft stint in the army, I entered the Lvov Medical Institute, and as a student, I met my future wife, Ivanka.
In , our first daughter, Hannusia, was born. Being the bread for the family was tough; I had to constantly make ends meet. Traditionally for the residents of the Western Ukraine, my business was tied with regular trips into the neighboring countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia. During one of these trips, Ivanka and I met Boldaniuk. His sister Nina, who lived in Lvov, asked us to bring to Ostrava a television.
I handed over this precious gift to Volodia in This was how we met. Over time, we became business partners and close friends. After graduation from the institute, I went into politics.
This was primarily connected with what the Ukrainian community in Lvov was doing at that time. In the summer of , I was working on the committee that took care of burying the remains of Josyf Slipyj, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church cardinal. That was when I came across our top-notch politicians and government officials for the first time. My first impression from meeting the top governmental official in Kiev face-to-face can be described as a deep disappointment.
It seemed to me these people were totally indifferent to what the so-called people in the street had to fight with: earning paltry salaries that could not catch up with galloping inflation rates, having to eke out a living working in improvised street markets, and having to deal with bandits and racketeers who had replaced taxation, law-enforcement, and legal functions of the state. It was evident that the old-time government folks could not restore law and order and were unable—or unwilling—to reform Ukraine; the new, younger generation had to emerge.
Having drawn this conclusion, I decided to test my forces in politics. In the parliamentary elections, I volunteered to run for an Member of Parliament office as an independent candidate. Luckily, I had enough funds to do that, because my business was doing quite well. My principal foreign business partner was Boldaniuk.
In , we founded the wine distillery enterprise in Southern Moravia, keeping on some side jobs. I should admit that Volodia and I were something more than mere business partners. We were friends between families and would go on vacations jointly in the mountains and to the sea. In , Boldaniuk became the godfather to my junior daughter, Tatianka.
Until mid, my family resided in Lvov. Hannusia attended the school with profound emphasis on German linguistics and for her high merits was invited to Germany. With the assistance of the public organization, the Bavarian-Ukrainian Forum, she was sent to study at the Starnberg Gymnasium. Hannusia went to Bavaria along with Ivanka and Tatianka. My wife became a student of the Free Ukrainian University in Munich. By that time, I successfully graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Ukrainian MFA and was on tenterhooks waiting for my first assignment abroad.
This was how my family ended up in Starnberg, a small resort town not far from Munich at the shore of a picturesque lake next to the Alps. It was here my family first heard about the tape affair. The former head of the SBU, Volodymyr Radchenko, once acknowledged that 90 percent of all tape affair participants had been taken advantage of by its masterminds behind the scenes.
What he meant was that we were just pawns in the game where all the stings were pulled by the powerful and mighty of this world. However, even the pawns can sometimes make it to become the queen. In this case, the game starts to become interesting, especially for those who have been biding their time and sparing no efforts to get to the ultimate goal. Over the time of the tape affair, most of its active protagonists came to feel themselves deceived and disappointed.
Although many of them were honest people who sincerely wanted to turn everything that was happening to the benefit for Ukraine, it would have been a nice idea for them to join their efforts and tell the truth. All Ukrainian journalists of repute would usually convene at plenary sessions. In the Rada corridors, the men of the pen could freely mix with the politicians, take interviews, and exchange notes and bits of gossip.
At the start of , the Ukrainian political and social life was at the brink of imminent stagnation. With the ticket for the second term in his pocket and ranks of faithful confidants behind his back, Kuchma kept a tight grip on the situation in the country. The only nuisance was the spiteful articles written by journalists who were disappointed in the president and his policy.
At that time, the opposition press was backed up by the Socialist Party leader, Alexander Moroz. The authors publishing their articles in the newspaper Grani could give free reign to their criticism and get nicely paid, to boot. Georgiy Gongadze was one of these few; I met him on several occasions in the company of the SPU leader associates. We would usually say hello and exchange a couple of phrases. The reason we became closer was rather unique from the perspective of subsequent events. Once, in the spring of , I was driving my car across Kiev.
Moving along the Lesia Ukrainka Boulevard, I noticed a guy with his girlfriend who apparently wanted to catch a ride. These were Georgiy Gongadze and Alena Pritula. They were flagging the cab and were quite surprised to see an SUV with foreign plates pull up to the curb. Having recognized me, Gongadze and his companion seemed to brighten up.
Volodymyr Ivanovich, what a surprise! Georgiy said.
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Today we are opening the Ukrainska Pravda Internet site. Why not stop by the office? We are setting up a presentation! That day I literally had my hands full. Canceling my plans for the occasional invitation was not a good idea. I limited myself by bringing the journalists to their office on Leo Tolstoy Street. There, next to Botanic Garden, the Ukrainska Pravda editorial staff rented an apartment for their headquarters.
Georgiy and Alena were in high moods and seemed to be somehow spiritually exalted. On the way, they animatedly narrated their plans. Georgiy wanted to eventually spin out his own Internet project and make the Ukrainska Pravda an influential political edition. Before saying our good-byes, I promised to the journalists that I would certainly stop by at their office some other time.
That was how I remember Georgiy Gongadze—a man full of optimism with great plans for future. Life sometimes presents us with utterly miraculous coincidences that are hard to perceive other than as signs of fate. Georgiy Gongadze, Alexander Moroz, and Mykola Melnychenko have been passengers in my vehicle on different occasions. In January , it was Alexander Moroz who was returning to Ukraine in this vehicle after his Czech vacation. The same SUV in reverse direction carried the family of Major Melnychenko in late fall of the same year.
Helping Mykola to hide abroad, I knew that he was an important witness in the Gongadze case. At least this was how Moroz presented him to me. During the tape affair years, I would frequently recollect how I met Georgiy Gongadze on the day Ukrainska Pravda had its official inauguration. This fatal, unexplainable conjuncture of events saved me from sinning. At different points of time, I was offered big bucks just to talk with the major and buy out his records. I, however, never betrayed or sold Melnychenko. For me, Mykola was always an important witness in the Gongadze case, as important as his records.
I believed that one day he would tell us all the truth, and I still hold on to this hope. Since the beginning of the tape affair, I was constantly plagued by the question: why would nobody want to save Georgiy Gongadze? Did they simply wait for disaster to happen and were even interested in this course of events?
And maybe, as some suspect, they stood behind the scenes and arranged for this murder only to set up Kuchma. I know for sure that if Moroz had ever asked me to help Gongadze, I would not have hesitated for a second. It would have been the best solution for all of us, and for Ukraine. However, the events developed otherwise.
On September 16, , Ukraine lost Georgiy Gongadze for good. Two and a half months later, on November 28, , it got Major Melnychenko in retribution. During the time the tape affair raged, I visited America twice. Both of these visits concerned negotiations with Melnychenko. Since the time he had left the Czech Republic, we did not see each other for about half a year. Mykola was suffering from being apart.
I felt that he had hard time living without me. I flew to the United States by Italian airlines with a stopover in Milan. After the wearisome ten-hour flight, our plane landed at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. My idea was to have a nice rest. I thought that Mykola would bring me to his place where we would have a nice, calm dinner. Melnychenko met me in the airport along with Alena Pritula. As it turned out, she flew in New York a few days before where she met the major for the first time.
Mykola and Alena sincerely enjoyed my visit. After presenting me to the journalist, Melnychenko explained that Volodia Tsvil was a man who had once saved his life. These words made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Alena, in response, said that we had already met. We drop Alena on the way and then go straight to my place. The file of people waiting for cabs at JFK was about a mile long. To stand and wait was almost hopeless.
Mykola, as I came to find out, had not a clue. He tried to shuffle and get in without waiting in line but was stopped. Then the major made a suggestion: why not take a bus, go for a couple of stops, and then try to flag the cab elsewhere? With these words, he resolutely made his way to a city bus. After about an hour-long ride, we returned to the scratch.
It turned out that we were on a shuttle circling between different terminals, whereas the major believed we were heading to New York. Frankly speaking, I was pissed off. Totally worn out after the flight, I wanted to get indoors as soon as possible. Mentally, I scolded Mykola but did not voice my spite, so he could save face in front of the journalist. Alena was, to her credit, quite tactful. She pretended that everything was just okay, although it was evident that Mykola was a hopeless guide.