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Ukraine leader blames friend in attack

From the Associated Press

President Viktor Yushchenko on Thursday accused the godfather of one of his children of involvement in his near-fatal dioxin poisoning in 2004.

Yushchenko did not provide evidence for his claim that David Zhvania participated in giving him a massive dose of dioxin that sickened him and left his face badly scarred. Zhvania is a legislator with the Our Ukraine-Self Defense bloc, which supports the president.

In September 2004, while campaigning for the presidency, Yushchenko fell gravely ill after attending a dinner with Zhvania that was hosted by two top security officials.

This summer, Zhvania angered Yushchenko by alleging that he had suffered only from food poisoning, not dioxin, and accusing his staff of inventing a politically motivated attack to boost his popularity in the close presidential race.

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Asked Thursday at a news conference whether he thought Zhvania took part in the poisoning, Yushchenko answered, “I think yes, to put it mildly.”

Zhvania countered that Yushchenko’s poisoning had yet to be proved. He said Yushchenko’s statement was “absolutely ill-considered and irresponsible” and showed his disregard for the rule of law.

The president has accused Russia of stalling the investigation by refusing to extradite key figures, including an official who was a host of the dinner.


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