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Friday, December 17, 2004

Yushchenko 'given Agent Orange ingredient'

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports |

A scientist analysing the compound used to poison Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko have determined that he was given TCDD, an ingredient of Agent Orange.

At the weekend, doctors at an Austrian clinic treating Mr Yushchenko confirmed that the dramatic transformation in his appearance - from healthy-faced to bloated and pockmarked - was due to dioxin poisoning.

Though doctors say they do not know who had poisoned Mr Yushchenko in September, they said the substance had probably been added to his food, and that just a bit more would have killed him.

TCDD is the acronym for tetrachlorodibenzoparadioxin - the most harmful known dioxin. As a component of the herbicide Agent Orange, which the US military used to clear jungle during the Vietnam war, it caused a wide variety of health problems for US veterans and Vietnamese villagers.

Tests on Mr Yushchenko's blood were conducted by Abraham Brouwer, professor of environmental toxicology at the Free University in Amsterdam. He confirmed that the politician's blood contained 100,000 units of dioxin, the second highest concentration ever recorded.

"It is a single chemical, not a mix," Mr Brouwer said. "This tells us ... there is no way it occurred naturally because it is so pure."

Mr Yushchenko, whose party managed to overturn the contested results of last month's presidential election in Ukraine, will stand again for president in a re-run of his contest with the country's Kremlin-backed prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, on December 26.

He was taken ill following a dinner with the head of Ukraine's state security services.


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