KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ An American human rights group has urged President Leonid Kuchma to investigate the death of a Ukrainian journalist who had written extensively about a conflict involving the state security agency.

Petro Shevchenko, 43, a regional correspondent for the daily Kiyevskiye Vedomosti, was found hanging in a boiler house on the outskirts of Kiev, police said Friday.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was joining with Ukrainian journalists to demand that Kuchma investigate. Although police ruled the death a suicide, colleagues said they believed Shevchenko had been murdered.

``Unless a death like this is carefully investigated and the findings made public, a climate of intimidation can persist for reporters,'' the committee's executive director, William Orme Jr., wrote the Ukrainian president.

Shevchenko lived in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. Last month, he wrote a number of reports about a conflict between Luhansk's mayor and the regional branch of the Ukrainian Security Service.

Kiyevskiye Vedomosti's editor in chief, Yevhen Yakunov, said Shevchenko complained that after the stories were published, security service agents pursued him.

A spokesman for the service said the agency had nothing to do with Shevchenko's death.