Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko expressed unease yesterday over the effects of dioxin poisoning on his pocked face but said he was fit to be president ...

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KIEV — Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko expressed unease yesterday over the effects of dioxin poisoning on his pocked face but said he was fit to be president and predicted voters would hand him a landslide victory in the redo of a tainted election last month.


Yushchenko, who is running for president against Russian-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, in a Dec. 26 re-run of last month’s discredited election, says authorities poisoned him in a murder attempt.


New tests reveal Yushchenko’s blood contains the second-highest level of dioxin poisoning ever recorded in a human — more than 6,000 times the normal concentration, according to Abraham Brouwer, professor of environmental toxicology at the Free University in Amsterdam, where the blood samples were sent for analysis.


Yushchenko drew vast crowds into the street to back his charges of mass fraud in the Nov. 21 run-off in which Yanukovich was declared the winner. The Supreme Court annulled the result and ordered a third vote between the two men.


Yushchenko, who favors greater ties to Europe and the U.S., denies suggestions by his rival that he is too ill to take office but showed he was affected by the poisoning, which has left his face bloated and discolored.


“Please believe me that more than anyone else I would like it to be the way it was three months ago. Time is needed for that,” he told a news conference. “In political terms, let me say that I am in good shape and able to work.”


Austrian doctors say Yushchenko is in good physical condition. Prosecutors have reopened a criminal case into the incident, launched when Yushchenko first fell ill in September but subsequently closed.


Both Yushchenko and his U.S.-born wife suggest the poisoning may have occurred at a dinner he attended in August with top Ukrainian security officials.


Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, who backed Yanukovich in the earlier poll, has made no comment on the doctors’ findings.


Yanukovich expresses sympathy for his rival but suggests he is too ill for office. He told a rally in southern Ukraine that crowds of his own supporters would converge on Kiev if needed after the Dec. 26 re-run “to prevent a coup.”