Ukraine Prosecutors Probe Bizarre Russian Link in Yushchenko Poisoning

KIEV, Ukraine -- In a bizarre twist to the mysterious poisoning that disfigured the face of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, investigators in Kiev are probing a new lead that involves a Russian political consultant.

Prosecutors are studying an audiotape of a conversation which alleges a role in the dioxin poisoning by Kremlin-connected spin-doctor Gleb Pavlovsky, a spokesman for the prosecutor general told AFP.

Pavlovsky, a key campaign advisor to Yushchenko's defeated Moscow-backed rival Viktor Yanukovich, dismisses the claims as a 'fabrication.'

'The prosecutor has said he knows whose voices are on the tape. This is one of the versions we are working on,' said Vyacheslav Astapov, a spokesman for Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun.

The tape recording is of a bugged conversation between a Kremlin official in Moscow and a man in Kiev who is close to Ukraine's SBU secret services, the journalist who passed the tape to prosecutors, Volodymyr Ariev, told AFP.

'The person in Kiev told his contact in Moscow that the poisoning was Pavlovsky's idea. The aim was to disfigure Yushchenko's face, not kill him,' said the Channel 5 journalist, adding that the plot appeared to involve rogue Russian secret service elements.