Prosecutors: Ukraine's Ex-President Yushchenko' Not Poisoned'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian prosecutors have alleged former president Viktor Yushchenko was not poisoned in the run-up to the 2004 election, a key factor in his sweeping to power after rival Viktor Yanukovych's ensuing victory was ruled fraudulent.

Yushchenko before and after alleged dioxin poisoning.

The suspected dioxin poisoning made Yushchenko seriously ill, and left his face badly disfigured.

Yushchenko said the poisoning nearly killed him and suggested Russia may have been behind the "attempted murder." The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

A source at the Prosecutor's Office in Kiev said Yushchenko had continually refused to give blood tests and offered little cooperation in the official investigation.

There may be two reasons for this, the unnamed source told the Ukrainian daily Sehodnya, one being that Yushchenko used the poisoning scandal as a ploy to win popular support.

"Either Yushchenko does not want to answer the questions that would show that his original testimony was false, or he does not want to implicate the people responsible for thinking up this dioxin 'special operation' for the sake of a political moment," the source said.

"Either way, he could be charged."

Yanukovych, the current president of the former Soviet republic, was backed by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin in the election race.

His victory at the November 2004 poll was however declared fraudulent and sparked massive pro-democracy protests which resulted in Yushchenko winning a rerun on a wave of popular enthusiasm in early 2005.

Last year, Yanukovych beat Yushchenko and his one-time ally Yulia Tymoshenko in the presidential elections.

In May, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka threatened to close the investigation if Yushchenko did not cooperate.

Yushchenko, whose health has improved significantly since 2004, said in January he wanted to "close that chapter" in his life.

Source: RIA Novosti