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In 2004, the two consecutive 5-year terms in office of Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma were up. The Constitution, which had been ratified during his first term, prohibited anyone from running for a third consecutive term.

Ukraine was ripe for political change. By the end of his terms of office, President Kuchma had become the most reviled man in the country and was openly being accused of ordering the murder of Internet journalist Georgiy Gongadze. Gongadze’s headless body had been discovered in late 2000. A mysterious set of tape recordings of President Kuchma in his office, the Melnychenko tapes, were revealed in Parliament by the leader of one of the opposition parties, Oleksander Moroz. Without the “expletives deleted” the colorful language of the tape (Russian of course) was far beyond the level of anything heard on the infamous Watergate tapes of President Nixon. Soon much of the world believed that Kuchma ordered Gongadze’s murder, and that he authorized the shipment to Iraq of Kolchuha anti-aircraft radar that was capable of detecting stealth aircraft.


A Ukraine Without Kuchma popular movement arose, and from it spawned the civil organizations, (e.g. PORA) that would shepherd the masses of demonstrators of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The Constitution required that to win, a presidential candidate had to garner 50% +1 votes. If no candidate could achieve this in the first round, a runoff election was to be held between the top two candidates. The first round of elections were held Oct. 31, and the two foot long ballots contained 42 names of candidates. Many of these were dummy candidates, set up primarily for the purpose of stacking electoral commissions and riding committees with one’s own people.

Russia blatantly backed and helped the “government candidate” Victor Yanukovich. The opposition candidate, Victor Yushchenko was poisoned, apparently by Russian FSB-sourced dioxin. A parade was invented to celebrate the displacement of Nazi German forces from Kyiv by the Soviet Red Army, and was scheduled just 4 days before the election. President Putin of the Russian Federation was invited to this event, where he would stand on the podium with both Kuchma and Yanukovich. Interestingly, the buzz on the street that day was all about the fact that Putin had brought his own snipers to place on Kyiv rooftops for security.

The opposition candidate Victor Yushchenko won the first round of elections, but failed to garner 50% of the vote. The second round was to be held three weeks later. That round was marred by blatant vote rigging and falsifications. The Central Electoral Committee, that had been stacked with pro-government people, declared Victor Yanukovich the winner despite exit poll data that showed otherwise and the impossible near (and over!) 100% turnout in the Russified east that supported Yanukovich. This triggered the street demonstrations in Kyiv and other cities that became known as the Orange Revolution.

The rerun of the Run-Off Presidential Election was a result of the pressure caused by these mass demonstrations. Similar pressure from Western leaders, a change of direction in the Ukrainian Parliament, and a courageous vote by the Supreme Court all combined to have the result of the first Run-Off annulled. The rerun was set for Dec. 26, 2004. Victor Yushchenko won a clear majority.





Deaths Associated with the Presidential Election:

A remarkable fact associated with the Election campaign and subsequent Orange Revolution was that there were no killings recorded despite the well-documented violence, and of course, the poisoning of Yushchenko. However there was a series of deaths of officials, or of recently retired officials of the outgoing Kuchma government, that despite being classed as suicides, are extremely suspicious.

Yuriy Lyakh (died 03-Dec-04)
Position: Chairman of Ukrainian Credit Bank (a second-tier bank which grew significantly in 2004), he wielded significant influence in the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) SDPU(u)
Cause of Death: letter opener to the throat
Official Classification: suicide (A "suicide note" was found at the scene.)

Lyakh was a close associate of Medvedchuk, and through him, President Kuchma. His bank was believed to have been a major channel for laundered money used in Yanukovych's presidential campaign.

Heorhiy Kirpa (died 27-Dec-04)
Position: Minister of Transportation under Kuchma
Cause of Death: 5.45mm gunshot wound (s?) to the head from a PSM pistol
Official Classification: suicide

Before his death, Kirpa had been implicated in having the Ukrainian railroad provide free transportation to Yanukovych supporters, as well as pressuring his workers to back Yanukovych.

Yuriy Kravchenko (died 04-Mar-05)
Position: Interior Minister then Revenue Minister under President Kuchma
Cause of Death: two gunshot wounds to the head
Official Classification: suicide.

Kravchenko died the morning before he was to testify at an inquest regarding the death of Internet journalist Georgiy Gongadze. He died one day before his 54th birthday.