Ukrainian prosecutors yesterday reopened their investigation into allegations Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned, after doctors treating the opposition leader confirmed he had been...
KIEV, Ukraine Ukrainian prosecutors yesterday reopened their investigation into allegations Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned, after doctors treating the opposition leader confirmed he had been slipped the toxic chemical dioxin.
Yushchenko, 50, returned to Kiev to campaign for this month’s presidential runoff. He said he did not want the poisoning issue to overshadow the Dec. 26 election, but the director of Vienna’s elite Rudolfiner clinic said a potential criminal case could be involved.
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“We are not dealing with simple pimples, we are dealing with a poisoning and the suspicion of third-party involvement,” Dr. Michael Zimpfer said, referring to the disfigurement of Yushchenko’s face.
Clinic doctors said it took a newly developed test, conducted by a lab in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to determine beyond doubt that dioxin poisoning caused Yushchenko’s mystery illness in September, leaving him disfigured and in pain.
Whoever was responsible may have thought dioxin was untraceable, Zimpfer said. “Until recently, there has been no [blood] testing available” for dioxin.
Yushchenko urged that an investigation be conducted after the runoff to avoid influencing the results. “I don’t want this factor to influence the election in some way either as a plus or a minus,” Yushchenko said in Russian as he left the clinic and headed back to Kiev.
Later, after returning to Kiev, Yushchenko said “soon we’ll know who did it.”
Tests showed the toxin was taken orally after likely being slipped into something Yushchenko ate or drank.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said it reopened the criminal investigation it closed in November for lack of evidence. Yushchenko fell ill Sept. 6 and was treated at the Vienna clinic twice before.
Lawmakers from Yushchenko’s party said the clinic findings confirmed that opponents wanted to assassinate or disable the Western-leaning politician rather than take the risk he would defeat Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the presidential election.
Yanukovych campaigners rejected suggestions the Kremlin-backed prime minister was involved in a poisoning attempt. Ukraine’s Supreme Court ordered the runoff after ruling that fraud in the Nov. 21 runoff gave the election to Yanukovych.
Dioxin is a byproduct of industrial processes such as waste incineration and chemical and pesticide manufacturing.