Image: Yuri Kravchenko.
Efrem Lukatsky  /  AP file
Yuri Kravchenko, pictured in 2000 while serving as Ukraine's Interior Minister, was found dead at his country house outside Kiev on Friday.
updated 3/4/2005 2:29:16 PM ET 2005-03-04T19:29:16

Ukraine’s former interior minister was found dead of an apparent suicide Friday, just before he was to meet with prosecutors for questioning about the 2000 slaying of an investigative journalist, dealing a blow to an investigation that could also implicate former President Leonid Kuchma.

Yuriy Kravchenko had been implicated in organizing the killing of Heorhiy Gongadze, who wrote about top-level corruption under Kuchma.

The death of the journalist — who was found decapitated in a forest outside the capital — sparked months of protests against the former president, who the opposition alleged had ordered the killing.

Kuchma, whose decade in power ended in January after the election of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, repeatedly has denied any involvement.

“Before God, before the people, before my conscience I’m clean,” Kuchma told journalists in Karlovy Vary, a spa town in the Czech Republic where he has spent the past few weeks. He said he would return to Ukraine on Saturday and was prepared to talk to prosecutors, Czech and Ukrainian television reported.

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