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28 Sep, 2009 07:01

“Ukrainian president’s poisoning was falsified”

The evidence of the 2004 poisoning of the Ukrainian President was falsified by high-ranking officials and Viktor Yushchenko’s family members, a representative of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has said.

Larisa Cherednichenko, the head of the department for supervision of investigations into criminal cases of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office, was working for the parliamentary commission looking into the circumstances surrounding the alleged poisoning.

The findings add yet another twist to the mysterious story that’s been puzzling many for five years.

Ukraine’s newspaper “Segodnya” (“Today”) wrote that in her report to the Prosecutor General Cherednichenko accused some officials from the presidential secretariat, led by the Ukrainian leader’s wife Kateryna, of being involved in the case. She said they tried to conceal the “artificiality” of the poisoning.

It all began during the presidential campaign of 2004 when Viktor Yushchenko suffered a serious decline in his heath. He was taken to a private clinic in Austria where doctors found dioxin – a poisonous chemical – in his body. A criminal investigation into the case was then launched.
By the time Yushchenko left hospital, his looks had changed dramatically. Pockmarks had appeared on his face and the upper part of his body.

Yushchenko insisted he was poisoned during a dinner with top officers from the Ukrainian security services near the capital Kiev on September 5, 2004. The Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Secret Services, whose residence was the venue for the meeting, fled the country soon afterwards. Nevertheless, he denied all allegations of poisoning the presidential candidate.

The presidential candidate’s associates at the time accused Moscow of the attempt on his life. An investigation into the matter was started immediately, and quickly became one of Ukraine’s biggest cases.

During the five years of the Yushchenko poisoning investigation, dozens of high-profile witnesses have been questioned at the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s office, their list including the country’s top businessmen and even international footballer Andrey Shevchenko.

Kiev’s official line has been that Yushchenko was deliberately poisoned.

“Americans poisoned Yushchenko’s blood”

Cherednichenko, citing the evidence of MP David Zhvania, who was at the dinner, said in her report:

“The victim had blood samples taken by an Austrian doctor in September-October 2004. However, the samples were not studied in Ukraine or any other European country.”

“The samples were secretly taken to the US, where they were enriched with dioxin and later, with the help of American special services, delivered to Austria,” Segodnya paper quotes Cherednichenko as writing in her report.

And it was exactly those blood samples that were sent by the administration of the Austrian clinic, Rudolfinerhaus, for the expert screening which discovered dioxin, the report says.

Zhvania, however, said he wasn’t strictly insisting that Yushchenko’s blood had been deliberately enriched with dioxin.

“A group led by one of Yushchenko’s associates, Roman Zvarych, took his blood samples first to the US. There were some tests and other operations conducted there and investigators have papers proving that. Later these blood samples were handed over to a Dutch clinic, where they found traces of dioxin,” he said. “I’ve never insisted that the president’s blood was deliberately enriched with dioxin in the US, but in any case, it was after this chain of events that everyone started saying Yushchenko had been poisoned.”

Special services’ operation?

Also, Cherednichenko mentioned a recording of a phone conversation between two people who called each other Roman and Marta. Speaking in English and occasionally using some Ukrainian words, those two were discussing the delivery of Yushchenko’s blood samples to the U.S. and then to Austria.

She claimed the name “Marta” was a pseudonym and the poisoning was nothing but an operation planned and performed by Ukrainian and foreign special services.

The General Prosecutor’s office representative refused to name who was really hiding behind the “Marta” nickname. However, the gossip that appeared on the Internet shortly afterwards is that it was Kateryna Yushchenko.

“I was afraid of everything and everyone”

Commenting on the statement in an interview with the paper Ukraina Moloda, the president’s wife said that she was accused of being involved in Yushchenko poisoning case.

"I was accused of falsifying the test results and making the plan to help him win the elections," she said.

She said that in order to find out what the reason of her husband’s illness was, she had to ask for consultations in Europe and the U.S.

“I had to do it secretly… since I was afraid of everyone and everything. I remember that time as a nightmare,” she is quoted as saying.

Kateryna Yushchenko added that she was proud of her husband and believes he was a hero.

An attempt to dismiss the report’s author quick to follow

According to Segodnya newspaper, the day after writing her report, Cherednichenko was warned that she would be dismissed from her office due to staff reduction. She was offered two positions instead, which she refused. Later Cherednichenko appealed against her dismissal through the court.

She said, however, that she doesn’t regret writing the report.

It looks like the alleged poisoning story is far from over. Whether the new findings are true or not, the question that still remains is what really happened to the Ukrainian president and what caused dramatic changes in his appearance.