FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Did Yushchenko Poison Himself?

by CHAD NAGLE

Kiev, Ukraine.

During the Cold War, the global ‘spy-versus-spy’ atmosphere of rival east-west blocs generated endless assassination plots and political murder stories. One of the most infamous such killings involved a Bulgarian BBC employee, Georgi Markov, allegedly murdered by the Bulgarian Communist secret police on a London street in 1978. Legend has it Markov’s murderer stuck him with an umbrella, the tip of which contained a tiny pellet of the deadly organic poison known as ricin.

A quarter century later, in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has alleged that the government tried to poison him during the pre-election period. Poison, he and his supporters say, explains his sudden illness and disfigured appearance in the first week of September, after spending an evening with two Ukrainian intelligence service chiefs. One of Yushchenko’s top lieutenants even accused the government of using ricin. This accusation was soon withdrawn, however, presumably because ricin would almost certainly have killed its victim. The accusers’ poison of choice then became “dioxins,” toxins so common they are found in the air we breathe.

Many outside observers believe the assassination plot story precisely because of its geographical context: the former Soviet Union. Few in America could imagine a candidate risking attempted murder of his opponent in the run-up to a U.S. election, but after all, this is a former Soviet country. The Ukrainian government–with the whole world watching–was willing to risk assassinating a high-profile political figure weeks before polling day, or so it seems. Common sense should be the first indicator that the Yushchenko campaign has concocted a tall tale. Yet, even supposing a diabolical government plot to murder Yushchenko were plausible, other factors call the poisoning version of events into question. Most important is the fact that Yushchenko has a long, documented history of serious illnesses, and his latest ailment could well be just the latest installment.

Yushchenko’s medical records show that from 1994 to 2004 he had the following diseases: chronic gastritis, chronic cholecystitis, chronic colitis, chronic gastroduodenitis, infection of the bowels, and Type II diabetes. According to medical experts, this plethora of intestinal problems would have required the patient to adhere to a strict diet, but Yushchenko had a habit of falling off his dietary wagon with unfortunate effects. In September 1996, after a birthday party at which he ate and drank heavily, Yushchenko complained of pains in his right side and a burning mouth. The diagnosis: chronic cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). Yushchenko’s most recent complaints–nausea, vomiting, headaches, stomach and intestinal pains–indicated he had probably violated his prescribed meal plan yet again.

Few seem to remember that, back in September this year, the clinic that treated Yushchenko (Rudolfinerhaus Clinic in Vienna, Austria, which now publicly supports the dioxin story) labeled the poison rumors “fallacious,” diagnosing Yushchenko with severe pancreatitis, severe intestinal ulcers, gastritis, proctitis, peripheral paresis and a viral skin condition. The core diagnosis, pancreatitis (decomposition of the pancreatic gland tissue), is caused by alcohol–particularly in “binge drinking”–65-75% of the time, and the items Yushchenko consumed before his September illness included crabs, watermelon, sushi–and cognac. In a country where hospitality involves endless toasts, Yushchenko’s hosts may have “poisoned” him with nothing more than a liter of Ukrainian spirits. To make matters worse, Yushchenko’s medical records confirmed he had voluntarily refused his doctor-ordered diet even after falling seriously ill. On September 9th he consumed salo (a variety of pork fat popular in Ukraine) with garlic, mare’s milk and mineral water, and the next day he was in a Rudolfinerhaus clinic bed, and soon accusing the “regime” of poisoning him.

Although Yushchenko announced publicly in late September that he had never suffered from chronic illnesses, insisting he had been deliberately poisoned, it was publicly disclosed soon afterwards that Yushchenko had suffered from intestinal ailments for many years. This does not explain his facial appearance but, again, dioxin poisoning is less likely an explanation than alcohol. Yushchenko’s disfigurement closely resembles a form of herpes infection called rosacea. As Dr. Chris Rangel, an internal medicine specialist in Texas, points out: “Rosacea can be explosive, and extremely disfiguring–and it can be triggered by even one alcoholic drink. In five years of work at major inner city hospitals in Manhattan, I saw several such cases.” In other words, both rosacea (accounting for Yushchenko’s outward appearance) and pancreatitis (internal symptoms) can be brought on by excessive alcohol consumption.

As human beings, we reflexively tend to sympathize with anyone who has experienced a disfiguring illness. Politicians everywhere, however, know that public disclosure of serious illness can be fatal to an election campaign, and it was only natural for Viktor Yushchenko’s campaign to attempt to cover up his physical problems. In the absence of any proof, we should resist the temptation to allow our natural sympathies to lead us to a conclusion of foul play.

CHAD NAGLE is a lawyer accredited as an election observer in the first two rounds of the Ukrainian presidential campaign He writes from Kiev.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism:  Transcending the Masters tools
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Chuck Collins
Wall Street Hopes You’ve Forgotten the Crash Already
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Robert Koehler
Costa Rica’s Peace Journey
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail