on FRONTLINE/World, two Stories From a SmallPlanet.
LARRY KURLANDER, Fmr.
VP, Newmont Mining Co.: Nobody had any idea how big this was
going to be.
the midst of a new global gold rush, an American company high in the
Andes is entangled in a web of international intrigue–
LOWELL BERGMAN, Correspondent:
He was America’s man?
ANTOINE BLANCA, Fmr.
French Ambassador to Peru: He was a CIA man.
The word that stops me is cyanide.
rebellion. In a joint investigation with The New York Times,
correspondent Lowell Bergman uncovers The Curse of Inca Gold.
And in Ukraine: Her husband’s
assassination sparked a revolution, but the unsolved murder still haunts
The politicians would like to make people believe that this struggle
us over, but I’m not sure about it yet.
ANNOUNCER: A widow
goes back to Kyiv with the hope that the new president will help solve
her husband’s murder.
There is still danger here, but I hope things have changed.
Curse of Inca Gold
by Lowell Bergman
LOWELL BERGMAN, Correspondent:
[voice-over] High in the Andean mountains of Peru, this land
was once part of the Inca empire. It’s where the Spanish came
500 years ago, hunting for gold. And it’s gold that brings me
and a team from The New York Times to the town of Cajamarca,
where the descendants of the Incas remain suspicious of outsiders to
We’re here to investigate
a growing conflict between the local people and one of the most profitable
gold mines in the world. It’s called Yanacocha, a gold mine
run by Newmont Mining of Denver, Colorado, the largest gold mining company
in the world. In the language of the local Indians, Yanacocha
means “black lake,” but the lake is long gone, a casualty of this
massive mining operation.
Today Yanacocha is spread across
more than 60 square miles at altitudes as high as 14,000 feet.
[on camera] How
many billions of dollars are invested in this site?
BRANT HINZE, General Mgr.,
Yanacocha Mine: Oh, we’re close to $2 billion right now.
[voice-over] I met Brant Hinze, the general manager of the
BRANT HINZE: Now,
we are currently the largest producing gold mine in Peru, in South America,
and currently in the world.
So far, Yanacocha has produced $7 billion worth of gold.
We were given rare access to
what is known as “the gold room.”
TOUR LEADER: We
are smelting molten metal. This is to protect against any other
It is here where the ore is melted at a temperature of 2,000 degrees,
and the gold is separated from impurities. The liquid gold flows
into molds, where it forms into bars and it emerges as a crude brick
weighing 28 pounds. Each bar is worth more than $180,000.
There’s a tradition among gold miners. They say, “If you can
lift a brick with one hand, it’s yours to keep.”
[www.pbs.org: A primer on
Just before my visit, Yanacocha
celebrated the pouring of its 19 millionth ounce. But behind the
company’s success story is a dark and troubled history, with allegations
of corruption and bribery. It goes back over a decade and happened
here in Lima, the capital of Peru. It’s a story that provides
a rare behind-the-scenes look at how a multi-national company does business
in a developing country rife with corruption.
It begins in 1994, during the
presidency of Alberto Fujimori. Back then, the original owners
of the Yanacocha mine were Newmont, Buenaventura – a Peruvian company
– and a French government-owned company, BRGM. The partnership
collapsed when the French tried to sell part of their shares to a competitor
of Newmont. Newmont and Buenaventura went to court to stop them.
Billions of dollars were at
stake, so Newmont sent their top troubleshooter to Peru, Larry Kurlander,
a senior executive and former prosecutor.
LARRY KURLANDER, Fmr. VP,
Newmont Mining Co.: The French government was behaving inappropriately
in the litigation.
This is the first time that Kurlander has spoken publicly about the
In fact, I have with my own eyes seen a letter from Jacques Chirac to
President Fujimori asking for his intervention in the case.
[on camera] So what do you do?
Well, you can do two things. You have two choices. You can
lay down and be run over by the freight train, or you can start to fight.
I chose to fight.
[voice-over] The dispute went all the way to Peru’s supreme court,
which was notoriously corrupt. Kurlander claims that the French
were trying to bribe Peruvian politicians to influence the judges.
We were at an extreme disadvantage. We have in this country the
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies from
paying any sort of bribes.
[on camera] And so Newmont wasn’t paying any bribes.
[voice-over] The French embassy in Lima was deeply involved
in the case, but the former ambassador, Antoine Blanca, denies they
[on camera] To
your knowledge, did the French ever pay bribes to any judges or anyone
in the government?
ANTOINE BLANCA, Fmr. French
Ambassador to Peru: No.
Never. Myself? Never. People under my control? Never.
So who paid the bribes?
It is Newmont, certainly.
You believe Newmont paid bribes?
I believe. I believe that. I can’t affirm it.
You can’t prove it?
I can’t prove it.
[voice-over] Kurlander says the French can’t prove it because
Newmont didn’t do it.
Yes. What we wanted to do was level the playing field. That
was extremely important to us. We knew– I mean, I was very confident
that we would win on the merits, but if there was inappropriate behavior,
we couldn’t win.
Larry Kurlander’s campaign to win the case would lead him to the notorious
Peruvian spymaster, President Fujimori’s right-hand man, Vladimiro
MIRKO LAUER, Newspaper Columnist:
He was the man to know in Lima, Peru.
Mirko Lauer is a leading Peruvian journalist.
MIRKO LAUER: Vladimiro
Montesinos was and is a crooked lawyer who made a short career defending
drug traffickers and who became, for all practical purposes, the man
in charge of the Peruvian army, of the Peruvian intelligence services,
President Fujimori’s main adviser.
This is Vladimiro Montesinos in action. Peru’s intelligence
chief secretly recorded most of the meetings in his office. Many
of these videotapes were later leaked to the press. They revealed
shocking behind-the-scenes footage of a corrupt government. The
videotapes show Montesinos cutting deals, bribing officials and handing
out bricks of cash.
MIRKO LAUER: He
had corrupted almost all of the Peruvian army, almost all of the Peruvian
politicians, most of his relatives, the governing party definitely,
a few diplomats. This man had, as a sideline, the sale of privileged
information and the peddling of political influence. This is where
I would think that Newmont comes into the picture.
The secret recordings reveal that Newmont’s Larry Kurlander met with
Montesinos here, at his intelligence headquarters, as the case was being
deliberated in the supreme court.
[subtitles] We have a very serious problem in Peru with our
company and minera Buenaventura.
In this audiotape recording, Kurlander is asking Peru’s intelligence
chief for help in dealing with the French.
[subtitles] I need it especially because the other side has
been acting quite strangely.
Larry Kurlander says he had no choice, he had to meet with Montesinos.
[on camera] Because?
Because of the position he occupied.
Now, when you were meeting with Mr. Montesinos, before you went to see
him, you must have known something about who he was, what his methods
I heard two things. One is that he could be terribly ruthless.
Two, that if the French were to be stopped, he was the only one in Peru
who would dare to do it.
[voice-over] During the meeting, Montesinos offers his assistance
through an interpreter.
[subtitles] Tell him I’m going to help him with the voting.
And then the two men part with a pledge of loyalty.
[subtitles] Now you have a friend for life.
[subtitles] You have a friend for life also.
[subtitles] OK, good. I want a friend for life.
BERGMAN: [on camera] When you say on the transcript,
“I want a friend for life,” and he responds, “You have a friend”–
I don’t remember that precisely, but there was a context surrounding
that where he said that he would help and– I am not sure of the exact
wording of it, to be honest with you. But in substance, that’s
what I said.
[voice-over] Montesinos was not the only one Kurlander lobbied.
He also persuaded the U.S. State Department to come to the aid of Newmont.
PETER ROMERO, Fmr. Asst.
Secretary of State: Our role was to tell the Peruvian government,
“We want the playing field leveled,” and that the Peruvian government
knows that the United States government will be watching.
Peter Romero was then the assistant secretary of state in charge of
[on camera] You
actually called Vladimiro Montesinos?
How many times did you call him, by the way?
I think it was one or two times.
On the phone, what kind of guy is Montesinos?
Oh, he seemed to be a nice enough fellow, seemed to take what I was
saying as important.
[voice-over] The French say that, unlike the Americans, they
refused to deal with Montesinos because he was corrupt.
[on camera] So
you’re saying Montesinos was a criminal.
A criminal, of course.
And he was America’s man?
Well, he worked for the CIA. He was a CIA man.
[voice-over] According to former CIA officials, the agency
was paying Montesinos’s secret police organization at least a million
dollars a year for more than a decade.
Here he is seen throwing a
farewell party for the CIA station chief in Peru. And on yet another
videotape, Montesinos discusses the gold mine case with the same CIA
agent, the man in the middle.
[subtitles] We will not allow the French company to use extortion,
blackmail and other gangster methods to get what they want in the courts.
And in this, the most revealing of all the videotapes related to the
case, Montesinos meets with the supreme court justice who will cast
the deciding vote. He explains that Peru needs U.S. support in
a border dispute with Ecuador.
[subtitles] I invoke your capacity to comprehend as a Peruvian
that there are many things at stake. In these cases, one has to
A week later, the judge casts his vote in favor of Newmont. The
French are forced to forfeit their stake, and Newmont gains a controlling
interest in the Yanacocha mine.
[on camera] You
understand the implications here? I mean, you seeing Montesinos,
Montesinos meeting the judge, and you win.
Not a single person asked for him to influence the outcome of the case.
No one at any time, to my knowledge, on our side ever did that.
Looks like the United States government went to the secret police chief,
maybe didn’t ask him directly, “Go talk to the judge,” but that’s
how he interpreted it.
It’s regrettable that that’s how he interpreted it because every
single message that we conveyed was, “Make sure the judges are able
to decide on the merits of the case.” Now, if he interpreted
that as being, “We want a favorable decision for Newmont, a U.S. company,”
Not for Newmont.
Not for Newmont. But for the purposes of the rule of law, it’s
[voice-over] Three years after the case was decided, Peter
Romero left the State Department and immediately went to work for Newmont.
They thought that I was an activist individual that could help them,
particularly as it relates to community-based programs and that sort
of thing. And I worked for them as a consultant for about 18 months.
When the Montesinos secret videotapes surfaced on Peruvian television,
they led to his downfall and the collapse of the Fujimori government.
[www.pbs.org: More on the
Vladimiro Montesinos was arrested
after fleeing the country and brought back to Peru to stand trial on
dozens of counts of corruption.
Now, looking back, Kurlander
says he regrets meeting with Montesinos.
It is what it is, and the fact that you’re in a country and you’re
forced to deal with a guy like this, it’s a terrible thing.
In Peru, the special prosecutor assigned by the new government to investigate
judicial corruption under Montesinos was Ronald Gamarra.
[subtitles] My theory is that both sides were trying to get
a favorable decision by any means necessary, but only one side got to
Montesinos, and that is the side that won. Montesinos has never
worked for free, not even when doing political favors. He always
Gamarra says that he collected evidence that indicates that both sides
corrupted the courts, but each insists that the evidence against them
was either unreliable or forged. Ronald Gamarra says he was taken
off the case by the Peruvian attorney general before he was able to
complete his investigation.
[subtitles] It did not benefit either side to investigate
the matter. I am sure that in a few year, the truth will come
out. It will be known for certain that crimes were committed.
I am sure bribes were paid.
Newmont says they did not break the law, and it’s never been proven
that Newmont, the French, or the Peruvian judge were involved in any
illegal activity. The United States government did investigate
allegations that Newmont paid bribes, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices
Act. But that investigation ended late last year after the Peruvian
government failed to fully cooperate and the statute of limitations
Today Newmont’s Yanacocha
mine is the most profitable gold mine in the history of Peru, but they
are not the first foreigners to seek gold here. Five hundred years
ago, it was the Spanish who came to Cajamarca. They conquered
this land and captured the leader of the Inca empire, Atahualpa.
Near the central plaza there
is a museum, a reconstruction of the room where the conquistadors held
Atahualpa for ransom. To win his freedom, Atahualpa promised his
captors to fill the room with gold, as high as he could reach.
But the Spanish betrayed him. They kept the gold and they killed
[on camera] Atahualpa
fills the room with gold, the Spanish kill him and take the gold, and
then today, the foreigners are back.
MIRKO LAUER, Newspaper Columnist:
It’s not that they have returned and taken it. I think that’s
what they’ve been doing all along with gold, with silver, with all
kinds of metals and minerals.
[voice-over] Mirko Lauer says that’s one reason why the
locals are still so distrustful of foreigners.
MIRKO LAUER: And
this is the basic historical lesson of these times, no? Unhappy
peoples, surrounding or watching very happy transnational corporations
moving earth and digging gold.
Over the last decade, the mine has expanded, spreading across the mountaintops,
now driven by the rising price of gold, which is approaching $500 an
[on camera] To
get, let’s say, an ounce of gold, how much of this earth do you have
BRANT HINZE, General Mgr.,
Yanacocha Mine: An ounce of gold will be roughly– excuse
me – about 30 tons.
[voice-over] In Yanacocha, they dig up half a million tons
of earth each day, literally moving mountains. There are no mineshafts
here. It’s an open pit mine. They are mining what’s
called “invisible gold” because it’s microscopic.
BRANT HINZE: We
carry the ore, the rock that has gold in it, place it on the leachpads,
and then we’ll sprinkle a weak cyanide solution over the leachpads.
[on camera] And that’s the word that sort of stops me, cyanide.
BRANT HINZE: Cyanide
is an industrial chemical that we use, and if you look at the mining
industry, our use of this industrial chemical is state of the art.
[voice-over] Yanacocha is the world’s largest cyanide heap-leach
mine. Management insists that cyanide here is contained on site,
in these lined ponds. But the local campesinos say they
don’t trust the mine to protect the environment.
We went to see the family of
Miguel Garcia, a dairy farmer.
[subtitles] Over there are 100,000 square meters of pad, where
there is a concentration of cyanide and other chemicals.
Mining on this scale uses massive amounts of water, and the campesinos
worry that their most precious natural resource is being depleted.
[subtitles] They are destroying our water, our hills, our
flora and fauna.
Trust between the campesinos and the mine really broke down here,
on these perilous mountain roads. In June of 2000, a truck contracted
to carry mercury from the mine accidentally spilled 330 pounds of its
toxic cargo over a 25-mile stretch of road, most of it in and around
this tiny village of Choropampa. The mercury, which is a toxic
by-product of gold mining, was picked up by the villagers. Many
thought the metal had gold in it and took it home.
It was beautiful. We got some and put it in our house. No
one told us it was mercury. After eight days, I started to get
rashes all over my skin. I felt dizzy, nauseous, high fever, headache,
all of that.
Many of the villagers ended up in hospitals. More than 1,000 people
are now suing in a U.S. federal court, some alleging that they still
suffer serious health problems. Afterwards, the villagers took
to the streets, demanding health care and reparations.
[www.pbs.org: Other environmental
I asked Roque Benavides, Newmont’s
Peruvian partner, about the spill.
ROQUE BENAVIDES, President,
Minas Buenaventura: Nobody was dead. Nobody was dead.
Mercury never got to the waters. And certainly, there have been
some complaints. We had an insurance policy for the whole population
for five years. This will continue for another five years.
So it was not all that bad.
But the mercury spill sparked protests that grew into violent clashes
with police, becoming a public relations nightmare for Newmont.
At company headquarters in Denver, the mercury spill was a wake-up call
for Larry Kurlander. He wrote a letter to company management stating
that the spill has “cost us our hard-earned reputation, a reputation
that will be stained for many years to come.”
[on camera] You
recommended bonuses be cut or forfeited by the officers responsible,
including you. That couldn’t have been very popular.
It was not.
Was it done?
I would say it was not done. It was done in such a minimal way,
in my opinion, as to have no impact. We had to send a message,
and I don’t think we did that adequately.
[www.pbs.org: Read the full
[voice-over] After the mercury spill, Newmont decided to investigate
what was going on at the mine, and they sent Larry Kurlander back to
Peru to conduct an environmental audit.
There were water issues, there were air issues, there were road issues,
there were health issues– all arising out of the mining operation.
We obtained a copy of the audit that Kurlander and his team produced,
an audit which found 20 high-priority problems at the mine. Many
of the findings confirmed the complaints of the villagers that their
water was contaminated and fish were disappearing. The audit also
found that waste rock at the mine had turned acidic and was generating
In fact, the findings were
so serious that Kurlander in a memo warned that senior executives could
be subject to “criminal prosecution and imprisonment.”
[on camera] The
company says it operates overseas at the same standards that it would
have to meet here in the United States. Correct?
OK. Were they doing that in Peru?
Were these minor violations?
What standard were they using?
You’d have to ask them that question, but it was not a U.S. standard
and it was not a Peruvian standard.
[voice-over] We wanted to discuss the audit with Newmont CEO
Wayne Murdy, but he declined our request for an interview.
For Kurlander, the audit and
the company’s response to it was a personal turning point.
[on camera] You
had a transformation, if you will, during this period, in terms of your
I think that’s a fair statement.
In what way? Maybe you could describe that.
Well, you know, we all understand that the extractive industries, particularly
mining, disturb the earth. And when we’re out there preaching
that, you know, we’re guardians of the environment, and you suddenly
discover that we’re not, that’s– it’s like someone hits you
in the stomach real hard.
[voice-over] Less than a year after the audit, Larry Kurlander
decided to retire. Two years later, Newmont’s CEO wrote
Kurlander this letter, in which he belatedly praised Kurlander for “sensitizing
the company to some of its shortcomings,” which prompted them to make
changes at the Yanacocha Mine. The CEO, Wayne Murdy, wrote that
since Kurlander’s audit, the company has spent more than $100 million
on environmental improvements. And Newmont says that today, they
comply with all national and international environmental standards.
At Yanacocha, they have set
up a water-monitoring lab and constructed dams to control run-off and
to protect the fish population. They’ve implemented new procedures
for transporting mercury and are building a $40 million road so they
can by-pass the local villages.
But despite the company’s
efforts, many in Cajamarca are still suspicious.
[subtitles] The animals get sick. Now they don’t produce
good quality milk. Our crops don’t grow like they did before.
[on camera] So have you complained to the mine?
The communities always present proposals for the mine to give us support,
but I think it falls on deaf ears.
[voice-over] Father Marco Arana is a Catholic priest and a
leader of the opposition to the mine.
Father MARCO ARANA:
[subtitles] Cajamarca had a lot of faith in Yanacocha when
they came 11 years ago. Yanacocha in those 11 years has done everything
possible to destroy that trust– corruption of the authorities, problems
with the water and the campesinos’ land, confrontations,
sometimes violent ones, with the population. Yanacocha needs to
rebuild that trust.
Larry Kurlander believes that Newmont has made significant improvements
but needs to do a lot more to win back the trust of the people.
There is a social license that, in my opinion, is far more important
than the government license because the social license is granted by
the people of the community, and unlike the government license, it’s
renewable every day. And without building a trust with the people
who live there and work there and have lived there for centuries, you’re
going to have trouble. And indeed, they have.
ROQUE BENAVIDES, President,
Minas Buenaventura: I hate the term “social license.”
I do not understand what “social license” means. We essentially
apply social responsibility, caring for people. But a “social
license”– I expect a license from the authorities, from the minister
of mines. I expect a license from the regional government.
But I don’t expect a license from the whole community.
BRANT HINZE, General Mgr.,
Yanacocha Mine: We do a tremendous amount of work directly
with the communities.
Brant Hinze, the mine manager, says he recognizes the importance of
working with and helping the community. Before we left, he took
us on a tour of projects funded by the mine and to a lunch hosted by
a community leader who supports the company.
Newmont provides 2,200 full-time
jobs in the region, allowing many to buy a home and car for the first
time. The hosts presented Hinze with a gift, a statue of Atahualpa,
the Inca emperor whose gold was stolen by the Spanish.
[subtitles] And my name’s here! [laughter]
[on camera] From today on, if you do everything right, do
you think the community will support you?
BRANT HINZE: I
would hope that we can continue to build and develop on the trust within
the communities, so that as a mining company, we continue to have opportunities
here to continue to expand and be a neighbor here for a very long time.
[voice-over] In their latest report to investors, Newmont
revealed that its production of gold at Yanacocha is expected to dramatically
decline, in part because its expansion plans are now in jeopardy.
The company wanted to start digging at this mountain, called Cerro Quilish,
which they believe contains more than a billion dollars worth of gold.
But for the campesinos,
Quilish is a sacred mountain and a source of precious water.
[subtitles] For Yanacocha, Quilish is a mountain of gold.
And for the people, it is a mountain of water. And Yanacocha didn’t
listen to the people.
[subtitles] Quilish is not for sale! We’ll defend
Last fall, thousands of Peruvians filled the town square of Cajamarca.
It was the largest protest ever against the Yanacocha mine. Blocking
roads, the protesters succeeded in shutting down mine operations and
forced the company to stop its expansion plans.
BRANT HINZE: We
have no plans to go in and enter Cerro Quilish again. Now, will
it ever be mined? I don’t know. I can’t answer that.
Communities are more and more becoming involved in their own destinies.
And when I say it’s a social license, I mean it. Without
the community support, you’ll be out of business eventually.
They will force you out of their community, and it doesn’t matter
how much government support you have.
in Ukraine: An unsolved murder still haunts the country, and a widow
returns, hoping the new government is brave enough to prosecute her
A Murder in Kyiv
by Brian Knappenberger
BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER, Reporter:
[voice-over] It was just a year ago, in November 2004, when
hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians poured into Kyiv’s Independence
Square. For weeks, they stood in sub-zero temperatures protesting
a fraudulent election and trying to force democratic change. It
would be called the“orange revolution.”
At the center was Viktor Yushchenko,
who became a folk hero in Ukraine after surviving a poisoning by his
political opponents. His badly scarred and pock-marked face would
become the defiant face of the revolution.
In an early news conference, the new president pledged to end decades
of corruption. He also vowed to solve the mysterious murder of
a journalist that has haunted Ukraine for years.
[subtitles] I want to emphasize that resolving the murder
of Georgy Gongadze is a very important political, moral, and a human
obligation for me personally.
Georgy Gongadze was a crusading journalist, whose death helped spark
the orange revolution. But today, despite the new president’s
pledge, Gongadze’s murder remains curiously unsolved. The story
starts here, at this apartment building in Kyiv. Late on September
16, 2000, Georgy Gongadze walked outside, was pushed into a waiting
taxi. and disappeared.
Georgy had become a major opposition
figure in Ukraine. A year earlier, on national TV, he dared to
confront then president Kuchma for failing to investigate an assassination
attempt on a presidential candidate.
[subtitles] Do you not think that this is incompetence?
If people cannot find the guilty criminals, shouldn’t they lose their
Kuchma wasn’t used to taking tough questions from journalists.
LEONID KUCHMA, Ukrainian
President: [subtitles] Excuse me, sir.
I do not know your name.
[subtitles] Georgy Gongadze.
But Georgy was fearless. He kept relentlessly after Kuchma and
his cronies until the night he went missing.
In a shallow grave in a forest
south of Kyiv, Georgy’s body was found months after his disappearance.
It was badly decomposed, burned and beheaded. What happened to
Georgy Gongadze that night has remained buried for years, but now political
pressure is mounting to dig up the secrets of the old regime.
We came to Kyiv with Myroslava
Gongadze, Georgy’s widow. She’s been in exile in the United
States since her husband’s death. Well-known as a TV newswoman,
Myroslava is enormously popular here.
[subtitles] What is the purpose of your visit?
[subtitles] The government has changed, Ukraine has changed,
and I want to see how much it has changed. And my second goal
is to meet with law enforcement to find out when my husband’s case
will be brought to trial.
This is my home. This
is where my heart is. I haven’t been here in four years.
When Georgy was killed, we were all in danger. There is still
danger here, but I hope things have changed.
Myroslava’s first stop is Ukraine’s interior ministry. She
believes the killing of her husband may have been plotted by officers
in this very building.
Actually, the militia killed Georgy. And I’m here right now
with these people, and they all belong to this system, and I feel really
stressed right now.
This used to be the office of Yuri Kravchenko, the man suspected of
organizing Georgy’s murder. Kravchenko’s replacement, the
new interior minister of Ukraine, is an old friend of Georgy and
Myroslava’s, Yuri Lutzenko.
YURI LUTZENKO, Interior
Minister: [subtitles] Can you believe these offices?
[subtitles] I never imagined you in a place like this!
[subtitles] Me neither!
Lutzenko is a surprising choice for the job. As a former anti-government
protester in the“Ukraine Without Kuchma” movement, he was beaten
by the very same militia he now leads. Once in office, Lutzenko
opened his own investigation into the Gongadze case. He told Myroslava
that the plot was much larger than anyone had suspected.
[subtitles] There were 40 officers involved with his abduction.
[subtitles] Oh, my God!
[subtitles] It’s impossible to hide such a huge operation.
Two or three people maybe, but not forty people. That’s why,
for all these years, people have lived in fear.
[subtitles] It’s unbelievable!
Lutzenko said Georgy was likely killed within hours of his disappearance.
He was pushed into a cab, where three officers were waiting.
[subtitles] Two people in the car beat him with fists until
he was nearly dead.
[subtitles] Oh, my God.
[subtitles] I’m sorry to be telling you this–
[subtitles] No, keep telling me.
[subtitles] They got a shovel and drove him out to the forest.
They poured gasoline on him and burned and buried him. The officer
in charge finished killing Georgy by strangling him with his belt.
He was already unconscious. Georgy was already half-dead from
the beating in the car.
[subtitles] They killed him with their fists?
[subtitles] In the car, yes.
[subtitles] With fists?
[subtitles] These are professional killers.
Lutzenko’s work led to some progress in the case. Three low-level
militiamen were arrested. But he told Myroslava that he hasn’t
been successful getting to the people who ordered the crime.
Georgy’s body was found 80
miles outside of the city. That’s where Lutzenko is taking us
[subtitles] Gongadze’s murder is not the only crime against
journalists and politicians in Ukraine. There are a number of
known victims, and thousands unknown. But the murder of Gongadze
was the last straw. It happened at the moment when people could
not take it anymore.
Here is where farmers found Georgy Gongadze’s body.
I loved him so much. I need to believe his death meant something.
I need to believe that this new government is different and that things
have changed. If they don’t put Kuchma on trial for this, then
maybe the revolution wasn’t real.
Former president Leonid Kuchma’s role in Gongadze’s murder has been
rumored for years, but just a month before Myroslava’s visit, Kuchma
once again disavowed involvement.
[subtitles] What would the motive for the president to go
after Georgy Gongadze? For one thing, I didn’t know him.
I only met him once, and I didn’t even know he was against me, the
Kuchma’s denial comes despite startling evidence brought forward by
one of his former bodyguards, secret audiotapes recorded in president
Kuchma’s office. Here, Kuchma is heard telling his interior
minister, Yuri Kravchenko, to“do something” about Myroslava’s
[subtitles] Before I forget, there is a guy named Gongadze.
[subtitles] I’ve heard this last name.
[subtitles] Gongadze, yes, he is already known to us.
[subtitles] He is already known to us.
[subtitles] The Chechens should kidnap him and take him to
Chechnya. Drive him out. Undress him. Leave him without
his pants. Let him sit there.
Kuchma says the tapes are a fabrication, but Myroslava believes they’re
real. She has worked to authenticate them since she first heard
them four years earlier.
After I hear these tapes, I realized that I don’t have anybody to
help me because there’s your president, the president of your country,
ordering killing of the journalist, of my husband. In that time,
I realized that I have to do something different and I have to find
the way to investigate this case.
Myroslava wants to meet the one man who she thinks can finally force
answers to her husband’s killing, the hero of the Orange Revolution,
I’m planning to ask him about investigation, about his political promises,
and about political future of people who was involved in Gongadze murder
because they still in power. And I would like to know how far
they are ready to go and are they ready to get Kuchma.
[subtitles] You look very nervous.
[subtitles] In this office, Kuchma gave the order to kill my husband.
[subtitles] No, I think it was on the second floor.
[subtitles] Really? On the second floor?
[subtitles] It was an older office.
[subtitles] So it is not this office?
[subtitles] No, Kuchma moved to this office after the scandal.
Maybe you can sit here.
Yushchenko begins by repeating his public pledges on the case.
[subtitles] For four years, we’ve had a huge question hanging
over this country. Who killed Gongadze? This is a question
of my honor, and I will resolve it, regardless how much it will cost
me politically or personally.
But he spent most of his time trying to get Myroslava to come back to
Ukraine and support his reform efforts.
He was saying, “Come back. Come back home. Come back home.
Come back home.” I said, “After this, only after finishing
this case. Only after, we will discuss these issues.”
A month earlier, Yushchenko had tried to close off the investigation
after the first minor arrests for the crime, so Myroslava says she isn’t
sure if Yushchenko has the will to pursue the case to the highest levels.
A lot of politics around this case. A lot of politics. Unbelievable.
But I will push as much as I can.
SERGIY TARAN, Independent
Scholar: Yushchenko promised during the Orange Revolution
that he will make sure that the Gongadze case will be solved, but now
he cannot solve it.
Sergiy Taran is an authority on the Gongadze case. He believes
that in the heat of the Orange Revolution, to avoid a violent crackdown
by Kuchma, a deal was made.
I believe that the international community gave guarantees to Kuchma
that if Kuchma does not use force against people during the Orange Revolution,
he will not be prosecuted, regardless whatever he done before.
And now we see that Gongadze became victim of politics twice– before
the Orange Revolution, and now.
[www.pbs.org: Read his reports
on the case]
Perhaps the greatest failure in the government’s pursuit of the Gongadze
case so far involves the chief suspect, former interior minister Yuri
Kravchenko, the man heard being ordered by Kuchma to “do something”
about Gongadze. A day before he was called in to testify, he was
found dead in his home. The authorities called it suicide, but
Kravchenko had been shot in the head-twice.
It looks like he was killed, and this killing has to be investigated
because he was killed right before he was asked to go to prosecutor’s
office to testify. It means that someone wouldn’t like him to
Former president Kuchma came out of seclusion for Kravchenko’s funeral.
Afterward, he faced heavy questioning.
[subtitles] Do you believe that Kravchenko committed suicide?
[subtitles] I cannot answer this question.
Kuchma’s former chief prosecutor is the man in charge of investigating
the suicide. He’s the same man investigating the murder of Georgy
Gongadze. His name is Savanislav Piskun. Myroslava asks
him about Kravchenko’s strange suicide.
[subtitles] Did Kravchenko commit suicide?
[subtitles] Absolutely. For sure. Don’t you
understand that he was under surveillance?
[subtitles] I understand, but how could he shoot himself twice?
[subtitles] There are thousands of cases like this one known.
It’s not painful when the bullet gets in the soft tissues.
Piskun is not entirely convincing about Kravchenko’s death.
[subtitles] In the university, there is a display showing
people who committed suicide. I saw the skull of the person who hammered
a nail into his head and survived. Then he hammered another nail.
Myroslava’s concerned that with Kravchenko’s death, there is only
one major piece of evidence left to implicate Kuchma.
MYROSLAVA GONGADZE (on-camera):
[subtitles] Let’s authenticate the tapes and decide, can
we use the tapes as evidence or not. If we can’t use them, we
have to continue with that in mind.
She says Piskun’s been stalling on the tapes, but he says he’s doing
all he can.
[subtitles] What if they find the device he used, was unable
to record anything? What then? That’s it? Gongadze
case is closed, and everyone is laughing.
[subtitles] I understand this. I understand this.
[subtitles] We can’t lose such a serious evidence.
I am trying not to lose the tapes as evidence. And when someone
says they don’t trust me, I laugh, because if I wanted to lose it,
I would do it differently. Instead, I try to nurture it as a flower.
The audiotapes have become a political time bomb in Ukraine. Few
in government seem interested in pursuing what’s on them.
PETER BYRNE, Reporter,
Kyiv Post: One of the reasons why there’s a reluctance
to crack “Tapegate,” as we say, is because on those 700 hours of
recordings, there are conversations between former president Kuchma
and officials who today hold high government positions, including Yushchenko.
Peter Byrne of The Kyiv Post has studied the tapes released
so far. He says they may hold the key not only to the Gongadze
case, but to many other unsolved crimes and secrets of the Ukrainian
PETER BYRNE: It’s
conversations with these people about significant things that involve
other people, many of whom, I would guess, are in power today, or whom
should be prosecuted for crimes that are suggested in the recordings,
if it can be proved that they actually occurred.
Today, Peter Byrne and other reporters in Ukraine say they are free
to pursue the sorts of corruption stories that once got Georgy Gongadze
This is the office of Ukrainska
Pravda, the Internet newspaper that Georgy helped found in
the months before his death. Here a new generation of reporters
is taking up where Georgy left off. Journalists in Ukraine no
longer have to fear the government they report on, says editor Olena
[www.pbs.org: More on
OLENA PRYTULA, Editor,
Ukrainska Pravda: We are not in danger anymore.
I think everybody can criticize everybody from the highest levels.
And nobody would say that I can be next, I can be like Georgy Gongadze.
Everybody knows that Ukrainska Pravda, it’s a history of Georgy
Gongadze, actually. I think that our newspaper is like monument
After weeks of meeting with top officials, Myroslava is leaving the
country. She thinks her husband’s death won’t be solved any
time soon, despite the political promises.
For last four years, Gongadze case has become a symbol of struggle for
democracy. The politicians kind of need me. They think that
I’m kind of symbol of change in this country, that if I will come
back or I will bring my family back, the people will believe in this
new government. Is it possible to come back? I’m struggling
right now because I see how many change has to be done.
For now, Myroslava has not to bring her family back to Ukraine.
A few months after she returned to the United States, it was the fifth
anniversary of Georgy Gongadze’s death. People were now calling
for the firing of general prosecutor Piskun and the full resolution
of the case against Georgy’s killers.
Just last week, those calls
seem to have been heard. President Yushchenko fired prosecutor
Piskun, coming one step closer to fulfilling the promise of the Orange
is available on videocassette or DVD. To order, call PBS Home
Video at 1-800-PLAY PBS. [$29.99 plus s&h]
is made possible by:
As a global engineering company,
we help our customers use electrical power effectively and increase
industrial productivity in a sustainable way. ABB, power and productivity
for a better world.
And by the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,
the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York.