Thu, Dec 09, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Yushchenko `poisoned' in campaign

DRAMATIC EVENTS A UK newspaper said that there was an attempt to kill the Ukrainian opposition candidate in the run-up to the heavily-disputed vote

AP , KIEV, UKRAINE

Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko suporters rally in the Independence sqare in Kiev on Tuesday. Ukraine's outgoing leader Leonid Kuchma denied on Tuesday he had agreed on concessions with his opponents to end a crisis that has plunged the country into turmoil and driven a wedge between Russia and the West.

PHOTO: EPA

In a development that could have a dramatic effect on the scene, the Times of London Web site reported yesterday that doctors who treated opposition presidential candidate Viktor for a mysterious illness during the initial campaign have determined there "was an attempt on his life" with a biological or chemical agent or a rare poison.

"There is no longer a question for discussion," the newspaper quoted Nikolai Korpan, who treated Yushchenko at the Rudolfnerhaus clinic in Vienna, Austria. "We are now sure that we can confirm which substance cause this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim."

The newspaper then said it asked Korpan if the aim had been to kill Yushchenko, to which the doctor was quoted as responding: "Yes, of course."

Yushchenko fell ill Sept. 6 and was rushed to the Vienna clinic four days later. Yushchenko has accused the Ukrainian authorities of poisoning him. His detractors suggested he'd eaten some bad sushi. Known for his ruggedly handsome, almost movie star looks, Yushchenko's skin now is severely pockmarked. His face is haggard, swollen and partially paralyzed. One eye often tears up.

Late last month, Korpan had said the cause of Yushchenko's illness remained "totally open." He told the Times that the substance that was administered to Yushchenko would be identified in a matter of days, but physicians needed him to return to Vienna for an examination.

"We need to check him again here in Vienna. If we received him today, we could finish the whole investigation in two or three days," Korpan was quoted.

Several thousand orange-clad Yushchenko supporters, growing impatient over the lack of progress in passing the legislation, besieged Parliament Tuesday, chanting "Parasites! Parasites!" as attempts to forge a compromise failed, with each side accusing the other of acting in bad faith.

The impasse in Parliament comes as Kuchma and his allies seek to slow Yushchenko's growing momentum following last Friday's Supreme Court ruling that canceled the Nov. 21 runoff victory by the Kremlin-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's fractious Parliament again finds itself debating legislation intended to ensure a fair presidential vote and trim presidential powers, which has the potential to shape the nation's political system for years to come.

Prospects for a compromise at yesterday's session appeared dim as supporters of Yushchenko pushed strongly for electoral changes to close loopholes for fraud in the Dec. 26 rerun of the election, but resisted the constitutional changes which would transfer some presidential powers over to Parliament.

A coalition of communists, socialists and pro-government factions don't oppose the electoral changes, but will only agree to pass them along with the constitutional changes.

Yushchenko has balked at the constitutional reforms, saying allies of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma want to steal his potential victory by weakening the presidency.

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