Охотники за истиной

"Кассетный скандал" начинает приобретать совершенно неожиданные оттенки. В западной прессе появились уже две статьи, в которых авторы высказывают сомнения в том, что пленки майора Мельниченко являются бесспорным доказательством того, что президент Украины дал согласие на продажу "Кольчуг" в Ирак. Обе статьи были написаны американками украинского происхождения и собственными корреспондентами влиятельных изданий в Киеве. Более того, они стали причиной некоторых проблем у их авторов…

Первая публикация появилась в "The Washington Times" около месяца назад и называлась "Kuchma tapes called into question" ("Кассеты с Кучмой вызывают вопросы"), ее автором является Наталья Федущак. Вторая – "Controversy Widens Over Ukraine Tapes" ("Шум вокруг украинских кассет разрастается") вышла в "Los Angeles Times" 15 декабря. Написала ее Мэри Мицьо, собственный корреспондент газеты в Украине.

Самое поразительное, что обе американские журналистки писали статьи по собственной инициативе и к тому же имели определенные проблемы с их выходом (например, статья в "Los Angeles Times" прождала своего часа около двух месяцев). Оба текста совершенно нейтральны, и представляют как бы противоположные взгляды на "кассетный скандал". Ключевыми моментами в материалах можно назвать разве что впервые обнародованные мнения экспертов. Так, Наталья Федущак привлекла к комментированию технических аспектов мельниченковских записей директора Института судебных экспертиз Юрия Попова, а Мэри Мицьо процитировала киевского журналиста Алексея Степуру, занимающегося собственным расследованием истоков "кассетного скандала". Но в любом случае их можно расценивать как прорыв информационной блокады "украинского вопроса" в американских СМИ. Причем прорыв, осуществленный самими же американскими журналистами, исключительно из неуемного желания установить истину.

Кстати, Наталья Федущак привлекла внимание аудитории "The Washington Times" двумя нашумевшими статьями весной этого года: о Викторе Медведчуке и Анатолии Кинахе. Главу администрации президента она описала как молодого олигарха, принимавшего ее в роскошном офисе и называвшего себя государственным менеджером. Но диаспоряне посчитали такую характеристику слишком лестной. И когда вышла статья по "кассетному скандалу", у Натальи, по слухам, были серьезные проблемы, связанные с угрозами физической расправы за то, что она якобы "продалась Медведчуку".

Мэри Мицьо тоже испытала на себе давление, но другого плана – его можно было бы назвать "негодованием тусовки". Как же так, назвала Жира, Швеца, Петра Лютого (редактора сайта "5-й элемент") и Мельниченко бывшими агентами КГБ!

Нужно смотреть правде в глаза. Статьи в американской прессе – это не перемена официальной позиции Вашингтона по отношению к Украине вообще и ее руководству в частности, а перемена позиции простых американцев к авантюре майора Мельниченко. Что, возможно, даже в некотором смысле важнее. Впрочем, назвать ту же Мэри Мицьо рядовой американкой тоже как-то язык не поворачивается. Корреспондент "Los Angeles Times" в Киеве в 10-летним стажем, директор Программы правовой защиты журналистов "Irex-ПроМедія" (с 1998 года), дочь бывшего члена УПА, политзаключенного и известного в украинских кругах за океаном деятеля диаспоры. В общем, довольно знаковая фигура в американской журналистке, причем не только украиноязычной.

Публикации в американских изданиях совпали с попытками украинских журналистов (в том числе и "Версий") выяснить, кто же записывал президента, записывал ли вообще, и как это связано с делом Гонгадзе. Не случайно в день, когда Григорий Омельченко презентовал книгу Мельниченко "Кто сидел на диване Президента?", на сайте www.glavred.info появился материал уже упомянутого киевского журналиста Алексея Степуры, где впервые говорилось о "напарнике" майора: “Согласно другой версии, Мельниченко прослушивал Президента давно, но действовал вместе с напарником. Летом 2000 года кто-то подготовил их к легализации записей. В этом случае заметный рост активности Мельниченко объясняется тем, что вначале отошел в сторону его подельник, и майору пришлось некоторое время работать за двоих. За два года, которые прошли со времени начала "кассетного скандал", в прессу ни разу не просочилась информация о сообщниках Мельниченко. Генпрокуратура утверждает, что в деле о незаконном прослушивании кабинета Президента фигурирует только сам майор. Однако из конфиденциального источника в Соцпартии Украины автору удалось узнать о существовании еще одного человека, который имел отношение к записям из президентского кабинета. Фамилия этого человека – Савченко. Он покинул Украину 6 ноября 2000 года – через три дня после находки таращанского тела. Перед своим отъездом Савченко созванивался с Александром Морозом. Сейчас этот таинственный человек находится в Португалии и продолжает регулярно контактировать с Мельниченко. По мнению нашего конфиденциального источника, Савченко в настоящее время не возражает против общения с прессой…".

Через короткое время нам стало известно, что человек по фамилии Савченко (бывший спецслужбист) был начальником агентуры предвыборного штаба Александра Мороза. Правда, еще через пару дней прошла информация, что это не тот Савченко, а другой. И вообще, их было два. Тот, который живет в Португалии, шифрует и посылает Мельниченко по Интернету аудиофайлы вместе с их транскриптами, и тот, который в штабе Сан Саныча собирал компромат на президента – разные люди. Просто однофамильцы. Ну, фамилия такая распространенная, как, впрочем, и Мельниченко. Кстати, мысль о том, что не сам майор делает транскрипты, красной нитью прошла в статье Мэри Мицьо, и это, наверное, особенно огорчило людей, для которых "кассетных скандал" стал делом всей жизни.

Говорят, что журналисты европейских изданий тоже собираются подключиться к расследованию и попытаться найти в Португалии неуловимого мстителя Савченко. Таким образом, из спецоперации и крупной политической интриги "кассетный скандал" становится предметом международного журналистского расследования, не зависимого от политической конъюнктуры. В этом смысле можно припомнить, с чего начался путь к отставке республиканского президента Ричарда Никсона. Как известно, он был вынужден уйти в отставку вследствие скандала, связанного с прослушиванием предвыборного штаба демократов, после того, как два репортера Вудфорд и Бернстейн опубликовали результаты своего расследования об "Уотергейте" в книге "Final Days". Я, конечно, не намекаю, что Буш, выяснив, что Мельниченко – это не Мельниченко, а записи – состряпанная господином Савченко липа, на которую дешево купился Госдеп, побежит подавать прошение о самоимпичменте. Но, с другой стороны, и Леониду Даниловичу можно немного перевести дыхание: в хоре негодующих голосов прозвучало несколько здравых ноток. На английском языке…

P.S. Для полиглотов, предлагаем оба текста статей в оригинале.

Kuchma tapes called into question

By Natalia A. Feduschak
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

KIEV — As Kiev's relationship with Washington continues to worsen after reports that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma personally approved an illicit sale of a radar system to Iraq, the secretly recorded tapes on which he is reputedly heard approving the order are being called into question.

After an analysis by the FBI, Washington says the 90-second tape segment in which Mr. Kuchma supposedly gave the go-ahead for a $100 million sale of four high-tech radar systems is authentic. Ukrainian specialists have provided their own evidence, saying the tapes were fabricated. "We requested the original recording and recording device, and completed that analysis," U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual said at a news conference in Kiev recently. "A technical and audio analysis concluded [the conversation] was authentic." Because Washington said it believes the tapes are real, the relationship between the United States and Kiev has dramatically deteriorated. Mr. Kuchma has quickly gone from being a leader embraced by the international community to being disinvited to NATO's recent summit in Prague. He showed up anyway but was snubbed by President Bush and other Western leaders. The U.S. State Department has indicated to Ukrainian officials that it wants nothing to do with Mr. Kuchma or Ukraine until the country's 2004 presidential elections. At his news conference in Kiev with the British ambassador, Mr. Pascual, however, repeated that Washington has left the door open to the relationship. "We believe in the possibility of broadening the relationship," Mr. Pascual said. Washington has cut off $54 million in direct aid to Kiev during a policy review. The United States and Britain sent a team of 13 inspectors to Kiev last month to determine whether a sale of the Kolchuga system took place. In a scathing mid-November report, the team said it was not able to determine whether the Kolchuga was in Iraq. "The main finding of this fact-finding mission is that the Government of Ukraine failed to provide the team with satisfactory evidence that the transfer of a Kolchuga to Iraq could not or did not take place," the report said. "As a result, the issue of the transfer must remain open." The brouhaha over the tapes began last year after a presidential bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, said he had secretly recorded conversations in Mr. Kuchma's office. He charged that the tapes showed massive wrongdoing on the part of the president. The tapes coincided with the disappearance of a well-known Internet journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, whose headless body was found in a forest 90 miles from Kiev. Fingers were immediately pointed at Mr. Kuchma. One of the conversations released by Mr. Melnychenko, who has obtained political asylum in the United States, reportedly had Mr. Kuchma telling aides to get rid of the journalist, although the words "kill" or "murder" were never used. Although disclosure of the tapes provoked a political crisis in Ukraine, Mr. Kuchma rode it out and interest in the tapes declined, until the revelation in the spring by Mr. Melnychenko of the 90-second Iraq segment. In that segment, Mr. Kuchma is reportedly heard to be speaking with Valeri Malev, then director of Ukrspets Export, the state-run arms exporting company, and giving Mr. Malev the go-ahead to ship the Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. Although Washington initially stayed at arms length from that conversation, in the fall Washington said it believed the conversation took place. That finding was confirmed by the joint team. What it could not determine was how the conversation came about. "The avenues of investigation were limited relating to the chain of events leading up to and following President Kuchma's July 10, 2000, approval and of the sale and transfer of the Kolchuga system to Iraq," the report stated. Despite the American findings, the Ukrainians continue to assert that the Iraq tape is a fabrication. Ukrainian specialists such as Yuriy Popov, a forensic expert with more than two decades of experience in tape analysis, said several problems exist in authenticating the tapes. For one thing, they were made using a digital recording. Manipulation of a file is much easier to detect in analog recordings, so they are easier to certify as being authentic. Voice compression is so great in digital recordings that similar voices can easily be mistaken for one another. It would be virtually impossible to authenticate whether it was indeed Mr. Malev speaking to Mr. Kuchma or two hired actors speaking, other experts said privately. Mr. Malev died in a suspicious car accident in March, shortly after a parliamentary commission informed Mr. Kuchma that it had evidence that he had violated the international arms embargo against Iraq. In today's high-tech world, however, any kind of electronic manipulation is possible using trained specialists, particularly if the tapes are of poor quality, like those released by Mr. Melnychenko. People could splice together a conversation from different time periods to fit their needs, Mr. Popov said. In addition, at least five or six minutes of speech is necessary for a conversation to be authenticated, Ukrainian specialists said. Moreover, because of syntax, conversations in Ukrainian or Russian — and the tapes contain a mixture of these two languages — are easier to manipulate than those in English. An authenticator would need to have an understanding of both languages to say for certain that the Ukrainian and Russian conversations are real. Peter French, a British expert in forensic examination of tape recordings, speech and language, said the difficulty in authenticating Mr. Melnychenko's recordings is because they were made on a digital tape recorder. Mr. French and a colleague reviewed three conversations from 2002, although he did not listen to the Iraq recording. "The conclusions are based upon certain assumptions concerning the format of the original recordings," Mr. French wrote in a report about findings made earlier this year by an independent Virginia-based firm that also authenticated the Iraq conversation. "If these assumptions are removed, the conclusions become invalid." The tape recorder and recording chip used by Mr. Melnychenko are in the possession of the U.S. government, Mr. Pascual said, adding that he did not know which government agency has them. Meanwhile, Mr. Melnychenko said he is ready to turn over the original recording device and chip used for authentication in Ukraine, provided Mr. Kuchma signs a law on appointing a special prosecutor, investigative commission and steps aside during the review process. "We are ready to do that," said Andriy Fedur, a Kiev lawyer who is representing Mr. Melnychenko "But we know that will never happen because the authorities here don't want that." Mr. Fedur said the real problem with the tapes is not the Iraq segment but that they chronicle how Mr. Kuchma deals with opponents who don't want to play by his rules. The most graphic example is what happened to Boris Feldman, a Jewish banker who ran one of Ukraine's largest and most profitable banks. "The tapes reveal how the president determined to bring down that bank," Mr. Fedur said. "If you listen to the tapes and then see what happened in real life, the events coincided. That's why no one wants the tapes to be authenticated." Mr. Feldman, who is also represented by Mr. Fedur, was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for financial machinations. Mr. Fedur said he is now trying to get the FBI's findings so they can be used in Ukrainian courts. Mr. Melnychenko, who spoke to The Washington Times earlier this year, said more tapes incriminating the Ukrainian president in "crimes against humanity" and ties with nations Mr. Bush called parts of an "axis of evil" will be made public. Ukrainian lawmakers who have access to more than the 45 hours of tapes made public last year said there are other references to Mr. Kuchma's being involved in arms sales to so-called rogue nations. For his part, Mr. Kuchma said at a news conference recently that he expects more segments to be made public. "This isn't the last example," Mr. Kuchma said. "Ask the FBI. We turned to the Americans and said, 'If you have the tapes, let's do an analysis together.' We understand the FBI can do everything."

Controversy Widens Over Ukraine Tapes

Los Angeles Times

The World

A dispute has arisen about the origins of recordings implicating the president in a journalist's death and in arms sales to Iraq.

KIEV, Ukraine -- Secret recordings of President Leonid D. Kuchma have led to the sharpest rift between Ukraine and the U.S. in a decade, after Washington accused him of approving the sale of military radar to Iraq.

A series of recordings, the first surfacing two years ago, has become Kuchma's political nightmare. The initial recordings implicated the president in the slaying of a journalist. Recordings of other incriminating conversations have since been released, most dealing with Kuchma's efforts to limit dissent.

This spring, recordings from the president's office appeared containing a conversation suggesting that he had approved the sale of Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq for $100 million. There is controversy about how the recordings were made. Kuchma's reputation in the West was tainted by the disappearance of journalist Georgi Gongadze. However, the Bush administration's conclusion that the Kolchuga recordings are authentic -- followed by a report late last month from 13 U.S. and British investigators that there was a "credible possibility" that the radar deal occurred -- have caused a deep split between Ukraine and the U.S., its most powerful ally.

"There is no evidence on which [the U.S.] can base such unambiguous conclusions," Viktor Medvedchuk, Kuchma's administration chief, declared last month while arguing that the recordings were manipulated. Former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnichenko, who now lives in the U.S., contends that he secretly made digital recordings of the July 2000 Kolchuga conversation in Kuchma's office. He says he also recorded the tapes linking the president to Gongadze's disappearance in September 2000. The Gongadze recordings, made public after the discovery of the journalist's headless corpse in November 2000, engulfed Kuchma in a scandal that weakened him at home, isolated him from the West and forced him to turn to Russia for support. Since then, Melnichenko has been pilloried by the Kuchma camp and praised by the opposition -- and by many in the West. But the former bodyguard's inconsistencies, together with the mysterious appearance early this year of hundreds of hours of additional recordings, are prompting a growing number of people -- including many of Kuchma's avowed foes -- to question the whistle-blower's claims about how he made the recordings and for what purpose. Melnichenko has become such a polarizing figure that Ukraine's few remaining nonpartisan journalists use pseudonyms when they take issue with his story. "I would lose contacts with opposition politicians and journalists if they knew it was me," said a Kiev reporter, who used a pseudonym on a recent article on the recordings. "Everyone thinks journalists have to take sides. So if you question Melnichenko, you must be a Kuchma apologist." As a result, Melnichenko's story has not been seriously scrutinized. He often has refused to answer questions, and his public statements have been inconsistent. He declined to be interviewed for this article. For more than a year, Melnichenko maintained that he had recorded Kuchma with a Toshiba DMR-SX1 digital recorder hidden under a couch in the president's office and had acted alone with no goal but to bring the Ukrainian leader to justice. This summer, however, Melnichenko announced that he had used several different recorders and had tapes of Kuchma speaking at the president's country residence and in a sauna. The new version of events came after Oleksandr Zhyr, an outspoken Kuchma critic and the former chief of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the Gongadze case, said he was in possession of hundreds of hours of recordings. Previously, Melnichenko submitted to the commission about 45 hours of presidential conversations on two compact discs, though he has refused to say who made the copies. Copies are widely available, and their contents are on a Harvard
Web site.

The CDs purportedly contain the complete digital recordings of the Gongadze conversations. The talks were scattered over several months and were spliced together with a computer program called Sound Forge for a continuous recording of episodes dealing with the missing journalist. Zhyr's revelation suggests that Melnichenko may not have been the only one with access to recordings. Yuri Shvets, a Washington-based attorney working with Zhyr to disseminate what he says are 700 hours of recordings dating from October 1999 on a Web site www.5element.net, insisted in a telephone interview that he did not get them from Melnichenko. "We got them in Ukraine. And Melnichenko got them from us," he said.

Shvets, Zhyr and Melnichenko are former KGB agents. Zhyr, who is in Ukraine, is vague about the recordings' origins, though he says there probably are more to come. Because the Toshiba automatically notes the date and time of a recording, it is evident that chunks of time are missing, he said. A lot of what is on the new collection of recordings duplicates the material on the CDs. But there are many new episodes -- including the Kolchuga deal. In that conversation, Kuchma allegedly tells Valery Malev, then in charge of Ukraine's arms exports, to go ahead with a $100-million sale of three Kolchuga radars to Iraq. The Kolchuga is a passive radar that gives out no signals of its own and thus isn't detected by aircraft. The new collection has led to some bizarre conflicts. In August, when a Ukrainian Web site ran a transcript provided by Shvets that detailed Kuchma purportedly discussing espionage against foreign embassies, Melnichenko successfully asked that it be removed and that the media not publish transcripts without his authentication.

He then produced his own transcripts of the Gongadze conversations and declared them the sole authentic versions. But Ukrainian journalist Olexi Stepura, who has prepared painstaking transcripts of the purported originals on the 45-hour CDs, contends that Melnichenko's transcripts were of the recordings edited by the Sound Forge program, which removed entire sentences from the original recordings.

None of the edits deal with Gongadze, but Stepura says: "They do suggest that Melnichenko has not listened to the recordings and is unaware of the discrepancies."

But the evidence showing that Melnichenko is not in exclusive control of Kuchma recordings and that other, more mysterious sources are releasing them raises doubts about his account. Though many people found it possible to believe that one person could record 45 hours with a device hidden under a couch, the existence of 700 hours suggests a much more complex operation.

Shvets is blunt about the logistics. "Melnichenko may have done some recordings himself toward the end of the operation," he said. "But an entire team had to be involved in this, and they had to have high political protection." He says certain Ukrainian oligarchs spearheaded the operation to blackmail Kuchma for their own ends. "But things got out of control, and we got the recordings," he said. The situation has become so convoluted that parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn early last month became the first high-ranking Ukrainian official to call for all of the recordings to be made public. "There are political forces in Ukraine who don't want the truth to be known," Lytvyn, whose voice figures in the recordings, told BBC. "But we need to hear about everyone who was in the president's office -- those who were in power and those that were secretly influencing them."