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30 Jul, 2019 19:34

Poisoning that shaped 15 years of Ukraine politics never happened – prosecutor on Yushchenko case

Poisoning that shaped 15 years of Ukraine politics never happened – prosecutor on Yushchenko case

Former president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko was not poisoned during the 2004 campaign, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor said in an interview, casting fresh doubts on the narrative shaping Kiev politics for the past 15 years.

At the time, Yushchenko led a Western-backed coalition against the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, whom they accused of being “pro-Russian.” His disfigurement from what he called dioxin poisoning led to an outpouring of popular support and street protests, later dubbed the ‘Orange Revolution.’ Under that pressure, the Ukrainian supreme court annulled the run-off election Yanukovich had won, delivering Yushchenko the presidency after a revote.

This week, however, the deputy Prosecutor-General and chief military prosecutor of Ukraine since 2014, Anatoly Matios, revealed in an interview that his investigators found no evidence of a poisoning.

Speaking to the Politeka online host Andrey Palchevsky, Matios said that he had asked Colonel Igor Nikolaevich Kozlov,  who had investigated the case, about what he found. 

Tell me, was there poisoning or not? He said “No, there was no poisoning.”

This contradicts the statement made in January by Matios’s boss, Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, who maintained that Yushchenko had been poisoned, but “it was still unclear by whom.”

According to the official story, Yushchenko had attended a dinner with several leaders of Ukraine’s security service SBU in Kiev on September 5, 2004. He fell ill soon afterwards and was hospitalized in Austria on September 10. Blood tests showed a significant concentration of TCDD, a dioxin poison found in Agent Orange. 

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Various Ukrainian officials have cast doubts on the story ever since, pointing out that Yushchenko never allowed a second blood test that would confirm the results, and speculating that the original test was tampered with. Yushchenko has since made a near-complete recovery. 

His government was not so fortunate. Its policies proved unable to deliver on the promises of economic prosperity, made the endemic corruption worse and fueled nationalism and intolerance between Ukraine’s diverse communities. Eventually, Yushchenko fell out with his coalition partner Yulia Tymoshenko, who went on to lose the 2010 election to Yanukovych. The former president went from widespread popularity to obscurity, with his party getting less than 2 percent of the parliamentary votes in 2012.

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Using the same methods as the original Orange Revolution, another coalition of opposition politicians was assembled in 2013 to pressure Yanukovych into abandoning a free trade pact with Russia for a restrictive trade deal with the EU. The protests, backed by the US and several EU powers, escalated into street violence and culminated in a violent coup in February 2014. 

The coup government then tried to crush dissent with military force, leading to the separation of Crimea and the ongoing civil war between Kiev and the two eastern provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk.

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