the first cassette ...

the first and most shocking political scandal in the modern history of ukraine - the "cassette" one, turns 20. it is now that we have become sophisticated and, alas, "spoiled" by all kinds of compromising evidence. audio and video recordings of politicians are an integral part of exposures and allegations of corruption. but then the disclosure of conversations, allegedly secretly recorded in the office of president leonid kuchma, had the effect of an exploding bomb on ukrainian society ...

domestic journalism is divided into two unequal groups. for most of it, the events of 2000 (before and after) are a distant story that they did not go into. and only a few aksakals remember how it happened in detail. because it was with us and before our eyes.

the gongadze case, melnichenko's notes, the rally "ukraine without kuchma", demonstrations, a tent camp and even an attempt to storm the presidential administration building, then the orange maidan and ... it started! the first but not the last “color revolution” in our professional practice.

if you recall the course of events, then in april 2000 a new media appeared - "ukrainian truth". in an unusual format then - online editions. it was created by opposition journalist georgy gongadze and his colleague alena pritula.

on september 16, 2000, george disappeared, and a month later a mutilated and decapitated corpse was found in the remote tarashchansky district. genetic examination confirmed that the remains belonged to gongadze.

at the same time there were rumors that gongadze was alive and was allegedly seen in various places in ukraine. society was at a loss. the progressive journalistic community went out to protest actions. all this was superimposed on the political aspect: the leader of the socialist party, alexander moroz, at that time was considered the main rival of president leonid kuchma, who lost to him in the recent presidential elections.

and then a scandal broke out. to be honest, for 20 years i have forgotten the dates a little. and i cannot say for sure - it was one day or two (november 27-28). google didn't tell me either. but, no doubt, the chronology of actions was as follows.

first, frost read out from the rostrum of the supreme rada the transcripts of the recordings in which “a man who looks like the president”, swearing, demanded from his interlocutors “to deal with this georgian”. everyone understood that it was a gongadze.

he also showed a video of nikolai melnichenko, a former kuchma security officer, who hastily left abroad at that time. melnichenko said that, acting on his own, he put a recording device under the sofa in the presidential office, with the help of which he obtained records proving the involvement of kuchma in the abduction and murder of gongadze.

then the journalists gathered in one of the premises of the verkhovna rada - room 12 (strange that there are still no memorial plaques there). also came workers of the verkhovna rada apparatus and several deputies from the socialist party. there was an old cassette recorder on the table, into which it took a long time to insert a cassette. when it came out, those present heard a fragment of the conversation that concerned the gongadze. i remember my first impression - i did not believe it.

as it became known later, the audio recording of the president's conversations was handed over to alexander moroz by the former major of the state guard nikolai melnichenko. he himself disappeared, and after a while it turned out that even before the release of the audio recording with the participation of employees of the us embassy in ukraine, as well as an entrepreneur who lived in the czech republic, vladimir tsvil, melnichenko was secretly smuggled abroad. later, together with the widow of georgy gongadze miroslava, he received political asylum in the united states. it was in april 2001.

being in the usa, melnichenko tried to start a political life. joined the spu, from which in 2002, in 15th place in the party lists, he tried to run for deputy of the supreme rada of ukraine however, the supreme court refused to register him.

in 2005, melnichenko turned to boris berezovsky for protection and help in solving the gongadze case. and even flew to him in london. but even here it did not grow together. this strange tandem broke up. mutual accusations of falsification fell down.

melnichenko periodically came to ukraine and actively collaborated with the temporary commission of inquiry of the supreme rada to control the investigation of the murder of gongadze - he gave her two discs with recordings, participated in investigative experiments.

on may 30, 2011, he became the head of the ukrainian lustration political party. in 2012 he returned to ukraine, as i understand it, finally, married a tv presenter and ... ceased to interest the general public. now, few people who are not connected with politics will be able to substantively answer the question: “what do you know about major melnichenko?”.

but the major's tapes played a catalytic role in the protest campaign known as "ukraine without kuchma." it began almost immediately after the “cassette scandal” - december 15, 2000 and lasted for several years. in fact, until the end of leonid danilovich's second presidential term.

according to statistics, the action "ukraine without kuchma" was supported by 24 political parties and public organizations, all those who later formed the "orange bloc" of viktor yushchenko. we had not yet become adept at understanding political psychology, but even with our naive experience we understood that a very interesting technology was being worked out. later it became clear that it was called the “color revolution”.

but in 2001 the revolution did not work. in 2004, they confined themselves to the orange maidan and the victory of the pro-american presidential candidate viktor yushchenko in the third round of the presidential elections. the new government initially took over the “papedniks”. former head of the ministry of internal affairs yuri kravchenko shot himself because of the “melnichenko tapes”. not because of the tapes - ex-minister of transport grigory kirpa. but then everything was quiet.

no one is shooting anymore because of secret records. cassette scandals in ukraine follow one after another. perhaps the most effective was “goncharukovsky”. on january 15, 2020, a recording of a conversation between the alleged prime minister alexei honcharuk and the deputy head of the nbu, yekaterina rozhkova, and the minister of finance, oksana markarova, was published on the internet, where they discussed president vladimir zelensky. more precisely, his primitive understanding of economics.

the head of state, judging by his further interviews, was offended. the government of the reformers fired. now the honcharuk is in the usa, trying on the role of the future democratic leader of ukraine. oksana markarova is a candidate for the post of the ambassador of ukraine to the usa. ekaterina rozhkova still cannot be fired from the national bank.

the "pipe tapes" also worked well. after the publication of an audio recording in one of the telegram channels, which recorded conversations in the office of the director of the state bureau of investigation of the trumpet novel, he was fired. not because of the records. but the occasion was timely. like a dinner spoon.

in the 20 years that have passed since the "cassette scandal", we all realized that the release of such records can have two options for the authorities' reaction: not to notice or to take action. depending on political expediency. that's why the pranker joker, the geo leros denouncer, the victims of the discussion - "sexy klitina" and "dombrovskaya ship pine", as well as people's deputy alexander onishchenko with his "music library in the clock" - worked, one might say, in vain. there was no corresponding resonance. and if it was, it was at the level of curiosity. poroshenko's recordings are cool. but that's another story.

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