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Yushchenko's support joy.

Byline: Daisy Blanks

Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko said yesterday support for him in his country was comparable to the groundswell that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Yushchenko was speaking after being discharged from a Vienna clinic where doctors diagnosed his mysterious illness as dioxin poisoning.

At a brief press conference at the elite Rudolfinerhaus clinic, Yushchenko lauded the decision of thousands in Ukraine to take to the streets to protest the outcome of presidential elections.

'We haven't seen anything like that for the past 100 years,' he said. 'I think it would be appropriate to compare this to the fall of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall.'

Yushchenko thanked the medical staff who determined he had been poisoned, which caused his dramatic facial disfigurement.

'They've spent many days and nights with me and I am very happy to be alive in this world today,' he said.

Doctors say he can return to the campaign trail, but that it could be two to three years before his face heals.

The poisoning has caused Yushchenko extreme pain and left his once-handsome face pocked and grey.

Doctors said had the dose of dioxin been greater, it could have been fatal but that he is now getting better and is capable of returning to the campaign trail.

Yushchenko did not talk about his previous claims that he was poisoned by Ukrainian authorities, which they vehemently deny, instead focusing more on the two weeks of campaigning ahead before the re-run of the presidential race with Viktor Yanukovych on December 26.

'I am very happy that we were able to mobilise the Ukrainian community to stand up for its rights,' he said through a translator.

After doctors confirmed it was poisoning, Yanukovych's campaigners rushed to reject suggestions that the prime minister was involved. There is 'no logic in such an accusation,' said Taras Chornovyl, Yanukovych's campaign manager.

Yushchenko's wife Kateryna Chumachenko said she and her husband had received threats and she had always believed that he was poisoned.

Yushchenko fell ill on September 5 and has been treated at the Vienna clinic twice before, but it was tests performed since he checked in Friday night that provided conclusive evidence of the poisoning, said hospital director Dr Michael Zimpfer.

'There is no doubt about the fact that Mr Yushchenko's disease - especially following the results of the blood work - has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin,' Dr Zimpfer said.

Dioxin is a by-product of industrial processes such as waste incineration and chemical and pesticide manufacturing.

Zimpfer said Yushchenko's blood and tissue contained dioxin concentrations 1,000 times normal levels.

Tests showed the toxin was likely to have been slipped into something that Yushchenko ate or drank, Dr Zimpfer said. The dioxin in Yushchenko's system caused chloracne, a type of adult acne caused by exposure to toxic chemicals.


Viktor Yushchenko
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 13, 2004
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