There are several questions in the history of independent Ukraine that have no definitive answer...
‘Who’s responsible for the murder of Georgiy Gongadze?’ is one of them.
The Murder of Gongadze: 20 Years of Searching for the Truth
At the time of his murder, in September 2000, Georgian-born Gongadze was a successful journalist and a household name in Ukrainian society. Starting his journalism career on Ukrainian TV, he quickly gained ground and appeared as a guest on the most popular political talk shows.
When the number of internet users in Ukraine was only around 200,000, Gongadze, alongside journalist Olena Prytula, founded the political news site Ukrainska Pravda.

“Ukrainska Pravda was one of the pioneers amongst publications. I can’t say that the internet had any special role at the time, at least not in political journalism. But [Gongadze] already started gaining momentum, specifically with his texts on Ukrainska Pravda,” said chief editor of Ukrainian newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, Yulia Mostova.

Gongadze’s fast-growing bullish success in political journalism quickly started making waves in Ukraine’s central government. A man whose success as the president of Ukraine depended on his iron fist and a strict hierarchy, Leonid Kuchma, was finding it hard to accept Gongadze’s frank articles and approaches in political journalism.
“Look at that *** bastard, Georgian, that Georgian,” then-President Kuchma allegedly said about Gongadze in audio recordings famously made public after the murder. “Someone must be sponsoring him.”


Gongadze’s successful journalism career was short-lived. He wasn’t just quietly removed from the public sphere in September 2000; Gongadze was kidnapped just as he was heading home to see his wife and children. His disappearance became one of the top subjects of discussion for the nation.
The official investigation had shown that Gongadze was kidnapped, decapitated, and taken to a forest for burial. The people who were proven to execute the assassination were serving law enforcement officers.

But who is responsible for the murder? And was it intended to be a murder or was it an unfortunate mistake?

Kuchma denies any role in the crime.
The way President Kuchma supposedly spoke about the journalist in the audio recordings made in his office indicates that even if Kuchma didn’t directly ask to kill Gongadze, he could have been partially responsible for it.
The murder case, and its lack of proper resolution, comes as a heavy burden on Ukraine’s history and present. If the country, to this day, can’t fully resolve a murder carried out by serving law enforcement officers, this paints a grim picture of the state of the jurisdiction in it.
The case of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze in 2000 was followed by a number of attacks on independent journalists in the country – both physical and verbal – as well as the murder of another Ukrainska Pravda journalist, Pavel Sheremet, in 2016 and the murder of the outspoken activist Kateryna Handziuk in 2018. Lack of proper justice casts a shadow over these cases, too.
“The Murder of Gongadze: 20 Years of Searching for the Truth” is a documentary made of first-hand accounts of people who surrounded the journalist before his murder – including his friends, colleagues, and wife Myroslava – and those who surrounded the central government figures – including Leonid Kuchma’s then press secretary.

While the film might not answer the question, ‘Who’s responsible for the murder of Georgiy Gongadze?’, it provides crucial details and insights into what happened in September 2000. Its main goal is to serve as a reminder of the gruesome events that happened in the not-so-distant past.
Film by Nataliya Gumenyuk, Maxim Kamenev, Anna Tsyhyma
For Media
Credits
The film has been made by the Ukrainian NGO “Public Interest Journalism Lab”.

The English translation of the film has been made with the financial support of the European Union Moving Forward Together campaign. The film has been produced with the support of the European Union Moving Forward Together campaign, CFI, The Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Ukraine, USAID, Internews, and the US Embassy in Ukraine. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the film’s authors and do not reflect the views of the European Union, USAID, Internews, or the US Government.