AP: Yushchenko sure government poisoned him
Updated: 2004-12-16 21:35
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday that he was sure he was
poisoned by the Ukrainian government and believes it most likely happened at a
dinner he had with the country's top security service officials.
Yushchenko's comments, made in an interview with The Associated Press, were
the first time he pinpointed when and where he believed he was poisoned with
dioxin. He said it likely happened at a Sept. 5 dinner with the head of the
Ukrainian security service, Ihor Smeshko, and his deputy, Volodymyr Satsyuk.
|Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko speaks to members of
the media during a press conference in Kiev, in this Friday, Nov. 19, 2004
file photo. [AP]
"That was the only place where no one from my team was present and no
precautions were taken concerning the food," he said. "It was a project of
political murder, prepared by the authorities."
A parliamentary commission that investigated Yushchenko's mysterious illness
in October said he had complained of pains ¡ª including a headache about three
hours after the meal and an acute stomachache the next day ¡ª after meeting with
Smeshko. The commission, however, also listed other places he ate or drank that
Yushchenko, whose face was disfigured by poisoning, told The AP that
Ukrainian prosecutors were looking into the case and said he was confident the
official culprits would be punished.
"I have no doubt that within several days or weeks, this path will lead to
the authorities, to specific people representing the government ¡ª who
administered the poison, who was involved, from whom the poison was procured,"
he said. "Who blessed it on different levels of government?"
Members of Yushchenko's campaign team had spoken of the security dinner as a
possible site of the poisoning, but Yushchenko himself had until now refrained
from pointing the finger at specific officials.
Experts say it is impossible for Yushchenko to have naturally acquired such
high levels of dioxin. New tests reveal the level in his blood is more than
6,000 times higher than normal and is the second highest ever recorded in human
history, said Abraham Brouwer, professor of environmental toxicology at the Free
University in Amsterdam, where blood samples taken in Vienna were sent for
Brouwer's team has narrowed the search from more than 400 dioxins to
about 29 and is confident they will identify the poison by week's end.
Speaking on other subjects Thursday, Yushchenko voiced hope that if he
wins the Dec. 26 presidential rerun, he would make efforts to turn a new page in
relations with Russia, which heavily backed his rival, Prime Minister Viktor
Yanukovych. At the same time, he said Ukraine would move to integrate more
closely into European structures and possibly aim at an associate membership in
the European Union in three-five years.
He voiced confidence that Ukraine would not split, but reaffirmed the
need to punish regional officials in mostly Russian-speaking eastern provinces
who had pushed for self-rule.
Earlier, Yushchenko told a news conference that he believed his opponents
were planning provocations that could jeopardize the presidential vote scheduled
for Dec. 26.
Yushchenko did not say what kind of provocations, but said they were
being planned in eastern Ukraine, a largely Russian-speaking region where people
support his opponent, Yanukovych.
"There is not a 100 percent guarantee that the election will take place,"
he said. "I know of provocations being prepared in the eastern regions."
Yushchenko has been working hard in recent days to expand his base of
support from western parts of the country, where Ukrainian nationalism is
strong, to the eastern areas.
The two men face a presidential contest Dec. 26. Ukraine's Supreme Court
ordered a rerun to be held on that date after ruling that a Nov. 21 presidential
runoff election was flawed by fraud.
Yanukovych's campaign manager Taras Chornovyl has said in the past that
the prime minister's allies were prepared to go to Kiev after the rerun vote "to
protect the people's choice." Although he said that some 300 non-governmental
organizations were ready to stage street protests, he said that the campaign
doesn't want "conflicts and clashes."