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Archive for Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ukraine takes over poisoning investigation

December 14, 2004

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— Ukraine's outgoing government sought Monday to control the inquiry into the poisoning of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, with officials close to the government taking charge of both investigations into who tried to harm or kill the leader of the "Orange Revolution."

The head of a new inquiry by lawmakers -- an ally of Yushchenko's opponent in the court-ordered Dec. 26 presidential rematch -- immediately cast doubt on whether deliberate poisoning could be proven. The decision by a parliamentary commission to reopen its probe came a day after a similar move by the country's new top prosecutor.

Yushchenko praised Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun on Sunday for resuming the investigation after an elite clinic in Austria determined over the weekend he had been poisoned by dioxin. But he said he hoped the investigation would be conducted after the election because he didn't want it to influence the vote "positively or negatively."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration was deeply disturbed by the physicians' report.

"We support a full and complete transparent investigation into that matter, into how it happened, who did it, what the cause was," Boucher said Monday.

The poisoning was not the first time that government opponents have been attacked in this former Soviet republic. More than two dozen Ukrainian politicians, high-ranking businessmen and journalists have died under suspicious circumstances over the past 10 years. All investigations into the deaths have proved inconclusive.

Getting to the bottom of what happened to Yushchenko is fraught with difficulties because many people stood to gain if he were sidelined from the election.

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