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Yushchenko poisoning probe to be re-opened
Updated: 2004-12-13 20:35

KIEV, Ukraine - Lawmakers in Ukraine's parliament re-opened their investigation Monday into opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's mysterious illness after doctors in Austria determined he had been poisoned by the toxic chemical dioxin.

Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko (R) and Orthodox church Head Patriarch Filaret read a prayer during a rally in central Kiev December 5, 2004. A key figure in Ukraine's opposition movement said on Sunday there was little the Moscow-backed authorities could do to stop Yushchenko sweeping to power in a re-run of the ex-Soviet state's rigged election. [Reuters]
The decision by a parliamentary commission followed a similar move by the country's prosecutor general on Sunday. The commission will be led by Volodymyr Sivkovych, a lawmaker who has supported Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko's opponent in the Dec. 26 rerun for the presidency.

"The results of the most recent expertise in Vienna are giving us grounds to renew our work," Sivkovych said. "However, we are not convinced that deliberate poisoning can be proved."

An earlier commission led by Sivkovych investigated the case in October and decided that Yushchenko had suffered a combination of a viral infection and several other diseases.

Prosecutors had closed the investigation before the Nov. 21 second round of voting, saying that they could not determine whether he was poisoned, but re-opened it.

Sivkovych urged Yushchenko to immediately hand over results of the tests conducted by doctors in Austria to prosecutors and the parliamentary committee.

Yushchenko praised Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun on Sunday for reopening the criminal investigation into his illness, but said that he hoped the investigation would be conducted after the rerun because he didn't want the vote to be influenced "either positively or negatively" by the inquiry.

Lawmakers could still take up the timing of the inquiry and take into consideration Yushchenko's desire to stall the matter until after the elections. A parliamentary decision is required before the commission actually begins to work.

Sivkovych said he had met with Piskun and said that the urgency with which the case was raised suggests that all matters would be thoroughly investigated.

Sivkovych refused to comment on "speculation" over who was behind the poisoning, saying that "all those scenarios are more public relations than truth."

Lawmakers from Yushchenko's party have said the Austrian clinic's findings confirmed that his opponents wanted to assassinate or disable him rather than take the risk he would defeat the Kremlin-backed Yanukovych in the presidential election. Yanukovych campaigners rejected suggestions that the prime minister could have been involved in the poisoning.

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