- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 2004

KIEV — Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko promised yesterday to release a medical report by Austrian physicians that identifies 100 possible poisons used in a suspected September assassination attempt that left his face horribly disfigured.

“It is not just my belief; it is my growing conviction that what happened to me was an act of political reprisal against a politician in opposition,” Mr. Yushchenko told reporters.

“The goal, without doubt, was to kill me,” he said at his first press conference since Ukraine’s parliament approved a historic reform package on Wednesday that ended nearly three weeks of street protests over falsified presidential balloting.

Mr. Yushchenko, 50, said forensic tests could be made public in the next several days, which would help solve the mystery about what happened to him after he fell ill in September, leaving his face disfigured.

Mr. Yushchenko fell ill on Sept. 6 and was admitted to the Rudolfinerhaus Clinic in Vienna, Austria, four days later with severe abdominal pain and lesions on his face and trunk.

His liver, pancreas and intestines were swollen and his digestive tract covered in ulcers.

Against the advice of physicians, he left the clinic Sept. 16 to continue campaigning, his face half paralyzed and a catheter inserted in his back so that doctors could inject painkillers into his spinal column.

Mr. Yushchenko returned to the clinic in Vienna later yesterday, where he told reporters: “Everything is going well. I plan to live for a very long time. I plan to be very happy. I am gaining better health every day.”

His face remains bloated and pocked with lesions.

He told reporters in Kiev that he would release results of investigations “into more than 100 possible poisons.”

During the nearly 90-minute meeting with reporters, Mr. Yushchenko said he believed he would win the Dec. 26 runoff with “more than 60 percent” of the vote and would take as many as 20 of Ukraine’s 26 regions.

In a historic decision, Ukraine’s Supreme Court ruled last week that the Nov. 21 runoff between Mr. Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych, was so fraudulent it did not reflect the will of the people.

Mr. Yanukovych, the pro-government candidate, has taken leave as prime minister.

Yesterday Mr. Yanukovych came out fighting, accusing Mr. Yushchenko of instigating “totalitarianism” against voters and he accused President Leonid Kuchma of doing nothing to stop the “orange coup” — two weeks of protests by orange-clad opposition supporters charging fraud in last month’s balloting, Reuters news agency reported.

Mr. Yushchenko said he would quickly clean house in what he has often called a corrupt government, including reviewing a handful of key privatization deals that benefited relatives of Mr. Kuchma. One of these included the sale of a metallurgical plant in eastern Ukraine to the president’s son-in-law and his business partner for nearly half the price foreigners were bidding.

The opposition leader said he also hoped the “myths” that had been created about him by the government would now be shattered after Ukraine’s news media, which for many years censored the opposition, promised to be balanced in its coverage.

“The time will come when people in the east realize that I stand for broadening economic relations with Russia. The time will come when we will lift the curtain on the legends created about me for people in Eastern Ukraine,” he said.

“I want the people in Eastern Ukraine to know I am not a Nazi and that I am the son of a former prisoner in Buchenwald and Auschwitz,” Mr. Yushchenko said, referring to his father, who as a Red Army soldier was imprisoned in German concentration camps.

The news media over the past year often portrayed Mr. Yushchenko, who was born in Eastern Ukraine, as a nationalist.

Mr. Yushchenko also said he had voted Wednesday for a package of political reforms seen by critics as weakening the authority of the presidency. He said he voted for the package because it was the most important step out of the country’s political crisis.

Critical presidential powers remain intact, he added.

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