Doctor Shares Insight on Ukrainian Intrigue

VIENA, Austria -- Nikolai N. Korpan, the head of Vienna International Institute for Cryosurgery, was asked if he was thinking of moving back to Ukraine from Austria.

"It's a matter of political will," answered the professor who had treated then-Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, allegedly poisoned with TCDD, the most harmful known dioxin, by his political opponents last September.

"A new period began in Ukraine's history; President Viktor Yushchenko and new political forces are determined to build a democratic, lawful state. It's a patriotic duty for every Ukrainian, wherever he lives, to help his country at that point ... I have enough knowledge and experience to be useful, but I think, the initiative should be taken at Ukrainian highest political level," Korpan, 48, wrote in his e-mail later.

Yushchenko, 50, who claims that he had been poisoned by political opponents, suffered severe stomach pains and disfiguring facial lesions after falling ill in Kiev on Sept. 5.

Korpan says he first met Yushchenko on Sept. 9 in the Vienna airport.

"I think we both felt like we knew each other before. He was accompanied by his charming wife, Yekaterina Yushchenko, and their little son who was sleeping ... But we didn't have much time for small talk. He was suffering from acute stomach pains, so he was rushed to the clinic's intensive care unit."

Yushchenko was treated at the clinic three times during last September and December.

"Last time he came to the clinic on Dec. 10. The next day we received the results of his blood tests that were carried out in three laboratories: CALUX, BioDetection Systems, and RIKILT, BioDetection Systems, both in The Netherlands, and Eurofins, Germany. All tests showed that Yushchenko's blood contained 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) - and at the level that was 5,000 times higher than the normal concentration ... The same day, Dec. 11, Michael Zimpfer, president of the Rudolfingerhause, and I, as Yushchenko's doctor, announced at a press-conference that he was poisoned with a dioxin chemical."

Korpan believes that Yushchenko's facial disfigurement eventually will go away.

"Using a five-point scale, I'd rate his condition as "almost five" at that point, although it's hard to say how quickly his body will eliminate the poison. It's a slow process, it will take some time. And the case (of the dioxin poisoning) is very rare in a medical history itself," he said.

According to Korpan, Yushchenko chose the clinic, "because he and his wife followed the advice of one prominent Ukrainian politician, my former patient, who had a first-hand experience at the clinic."

Meanwhile, Dr. Lothar Wicke, another Vienna professor I talked to over the phone about the case, denied that the Ukrainian president was poisoned.

Wicke, the former clinical director at the clinic, said he received a threatening phone call from somebody who introduced himself as "a friend from Ukraine" and told the professor "to take care. Your life is in danger," after Wicke made public his doubts about the official diagnosis.

"I resigned from the clinic on Jan. 18. I don't give any interviews at that point," said Wicke, who is now suing the clinic.

He confirmed, however, that he and his family were put under police protection for 10 days after the phone call and said that the next hearing in his case against the clinic was set for May 9.

He also declined to comment on speculation that he met some of Yushchenko's political opponents - the former Ukrainian president's daughter and her husband - who allegedly traveled to Vienna soon after Yushchenko first claimed he had been poisoned.

"No comment. It's very important for my court case," Wicke said.