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Ex-Ukraine minister 'kills self'

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Ukraine's former interior minister, who was to testify in the case of a murdered journalist, apparently committed suicide. CNN's Jill Dougherty reports. (March 4)
• Ukraine reporter's killer 'caught'
Leonid D. Kuchma
Viktor Yushchenko

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Ukraine's former interior minister has been found dead in an apparent suicide on the day he was to be questioned about the killing of an opposition-minded journalist, officials said.

The Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU, confirmed Friday that Yuri Kravchenko's body was found at his country house and that a preliminary investigation suggests he committed suicide, CNN's Jill Dougherty reported.

Kravchenko was due to be questioned Friday by prosecutors in connection with the murder of investigative journalist Georhiy Gongadze.

President Viktor Yushchenko said Kravchenko's death could be linked to the probe into Gongadze's slaying and ordered Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko and the Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun to take the investigation under personal control, The Associated Press reported.

"The investigation must be conducted in a transparent and professional manner and in full accordance with law," Yushchenko said in a written statement Friday.

Opposition political forces had accused Kravchenko of being involved in Gongadze's death, AP reported.

Gongadze, who campaigned against and wrote about corruption in Ukraine, was abducted in downtown Kiev in September 2000.

His decapitated body was later found buried in a forest outside the capital.

His death sparked months of protests against then-President Leonid Kuchma. Critics implicated Kuchma in the murder, citing secretly recorded audio tapes in which Kuchma allegedly ordered his staff to get rid of the journalist. Kuchma vehemently denied those charges.

In the tapes, Kuchma was overheard repeatedly complaining about Gongadze's reporting and ordering Kravchenko to "drive him out, throw (him) out, give him to the Chechens."

The high-profile murder was never solved during Kuchma's presidency. Recently elected President Viktor Yushchenko has made the case a high priority and vowed to solve it.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's chief prosecutor said the slaying of Gongadze had been solved and the killers found and arrested. However, he did not say who had ordered the killing.

Prosecutors this week said two suspects had been arrested and one ordered not to leave Kiev. A fourth was being sought. All of them were employed by Ukraine's Interior Ministry.

CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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