- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 19, 2004

From combined dispatches

KIEV — A Ukrainian opposition leader and presidential candidate sought treatment a week ago at a hospital in Vienna, Austria, after what his supporters said yesterday appeared to be an attempt on his life by political enemies who poisoned him.

Viktor Yushchenko, a former prime minister, stopped campaigning and flew to Vienna for treatment after he was taken ill with what was first thought to be food poisoning and turned out to be chemical poisoning, his aides said.

Austrian doctors ran tests and found that Mr. Yushchenko’s illness was “due to a serious viral infection and chemical substances, which are not normally found in food products,” Oleksander Zinchenko, a senior aide, said at a press conference Friday.

“There is enough evidence to say that it was an attempt on the life of presidential candidate Yushchenko,” said Mr. Zinchenko, director of the candidate’s campaign for the Oct. 31 presidential elections.

The head of the administration for President Leonid Kuchma laughed off the accusation.

“Let Zinchenko taste the food which is brought to Yushchenko. That’s what leaders did in the Middle Ages, I think,” Vasyl Baziv was quoted as saying on the Internet Web site www.tribuna.com.ua.

“And I would recommend him to drink a hundred grams of vodka. If he had drunk that, nothing would be wrong with him,” Mr. Baziv said.

Mr. Yushchenko returned to Kiev after a week in the Vienna hospital to address a rally of an estimated 10,000 people. Speaking before a crowd of cheering supporters holding up his party’s orange-colored banner, Mr. Yushchenko vowed to “send the bandits looting the country to jail” and promised to restore “dignity” in the country.

“I am going to vote Yushchenko, because we cannot carry on like this,” said 72-year-old Viktor Chevchenko. “We need a change and a patriot in power.”

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