Another Poisoning Seen In Death Of Ukraine's Pluzhnikov

NEW YORK, NY -- Another alleged poisoning is rocking Ukraine on Thursday: Politician and businessman Ihor Pluzhnikov died after the onset of a mysterious illness. Pluzhnikov, the majority owner of the nation's main TV channel, Inter, was well connected to "The Group of Seven," a circle of influential Ukrainian businessmen.

He was also key in the opposition Social Democratic Party that supported the losing candidate in last year's presidential elections. Reports speculate that Pluzhnikov may have been strong-armed into selling his Inter stake, so buyers could make the channel more regime-friendly. Not much more is known about the share sale. But by mid-June, Pluzhnikov was in a coma, reportedly from "toxic hepatitis," sparking eerie flashbacks to last fall's "illness" of now President Victor Yushchenko.

The latter's gray pockmarked face and deteriorating health were originally dismissed as food poisoning; later, an Austrian clinic confirmed Yushchenko had elevated levels of dioxin in his blood.

Two Ukrainian billionaires continue to control their TV channels--for now. Viktor Pinchuk leads ICTV, STB, and Novyi Kanal and Rinat Akhmetov has TRK Ukraine. The two collaborated in last year's $800 million purchase of Kryvorizhstal when they underbid Mittal Steel and Pittsburgh-based United States Steel. Ukrainian courts have handed the steel company back to the state.

Meanwhile, Pinchuk and Akhmetov have filed a complaint in the European Court for Human Rights. The official probe of Pluzhnikov's death continues.

Source: Forbes