- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

KIEV — Test results released yesterday by a prestigious clinic in Vienna, Austria, showed that Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with a massive dose of dioxin, which he probably ingested in food such as soup.

“There is no doubt about the fact that Mr. Yushchenko’s disease — especially after the results of the blood work — has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin,” Dr. Michael Zimpfer, director of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic, told a press conference yesterday.

Tests, which had been run over 24 hours, provided conclusive evidence of the poisoning, he said.

Mr. Yushchenko is in satisfactory condition and dioxin levels in his liver have returned to normal.

Ukraine’s new prosecutor general, meanwhile, reopened an investigation of Mr. Yushchenko’s poisoning after statements by his predecessor that there was no evidence of foul play.

Mr. Yushchenko fell ill on Sept. 6, the day after a late-night meeting with Ihor Smeshko, the head of Ukraine’s secret services, and his deputy.

During the meeting, which took place at a country house near Kiev, the opposition urged Ukraine’s secret services not to take sides during the coming presidential election, which has since become the most hotly contested in the nation’s 13 years of independence.

The next day, Mr. Yushchenko became violently ill and several days later was rushed to Vienna for treatment of severe abdominal pain, a swollen liver and pancreas, ulcers throughout his digestive system and lesions on his face and trunk.

Although he returned to Ukraine to continue campaigning, the public was shocked to find the once-telegenic Mr. Yushchenko suffering from an ashen, swollen and pockmarked face that was half paralyzed.

The United States expressed its concern yesterday and urged Ukraine to conduct a thorough investigation into the poisoning.

“We have seen the report,” said Joanne Moore, a State Department spokeswoman. “We are deeply concerned about these findings. We urge Ukrainian authorities to investigate this matter.”

Mr. Yushchenko, 50, has accused Ukraine’s authorities of trying to kill him, an accusation the government has denied.

Ukrainian officials initially joked at the charges by saying Mr. Yushchenko’s affliction was caused by eating bad sushi.

Yesterday’s announcement will force the government to get serious about investigating Mr. Yushchenko’s claims, said Myron Wasylyk, a U.S. analyst based in Kiev.

“It confirms what Yushchenko has been saying all along, that it was a poisoning and the government was behind it. They needed a medical conclusion before a criminal investigation could begin,” Mr. Wasylyk said.

The announcement is likely to add political fuel as Mr. Yushchenko heads into another runoff election with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, scheduled for Dec. 26.

The Supreme Court annulled a Nov. 21 ballot, saying it was fraudulent.

Dr. Zimpfer said the opposition leader’s blood and tissue registered concentrations of dioxin that were 1,000 times above normal levels.

The chemical, which is one of the most toxic and is found in Agent Orange, was taken orally, perhaps in soup.

“We suspect involvement of an external party, but we cannot answer as to who cooked what or who was with him while he ate,” Dr. Zimpfer said.

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