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| Yushchenko Was Poisoned; Ukraine Assesses Turmoil
KIEV (Reuters) - Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned by dioxin during Ukraine's presidential election campaign, his Austrian doctors said on Saturday as the country counted the cost of the turmoil generated by the rigged poll.
The ex-Soviet state is emerging from more than two weeks of mass demonstrations which brought much of the capital Kiev to a halt. Its Supreme Court, citing mass fraud, annulled the Nov. 21 run-off in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was declared the winner over Yushchenko, and ordered a new vote on Dec. 26.
Yushchenko's doctors appeared to bear out his long-stated allegations that he was poisoned as part of a plot to kill him. His illness kept him out of the early stages of the campaign and left his face bloated and pocked. "There is no doubt," Dr Michael Zimpfer, president of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic where Yushchenko is undergoing treatment, told a news conference in Vienna." There were high concentrations of dioxin, most likely orally administered."
It was impossible to determine, he said, how the poisoning had taken place. "We weren't there and we will leave that to the legal authorities to decide."
But dioxin, he said, was soluble and spread easily through the body. It could be administered without difficulty in food.
"We suspect a cause triggered by a third party ... It would be easy to administer in a soup that contains cream."
There was no immediate reaction to the revelations from senior officials in Kiev.
The West-leaning Yushchenko had flown to Vienna for the weekend for further tests, taking time out from the campaign.
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Yanukovich, backed in the previous campaign by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and Russia, addressed rallies in eastern mining towns, which have formed the backbone of his support.
But only modest crowds turned out to hear him denounce the Supreme Court ruling and turn on Kuchma, his former mentor.
Speaking to 5,000 supporters in the town of Luhansk before the Vienna announcement, Yanukovich said of his opponent: "He certainly is ill and I sympathize. Let him get well soon. As for the reasons, I know nothing. Let the specialists work on that."
In the Ukrainian capital, Finance Minister Mykola Azarov announced a revision of 2005 budget forecasts to take account of the crisis which has gripped the country, lowering its growth forecast and raising projections for inflation and the deficit.
The new figures, he said, were a conservative, realistic approach. Growth in 2005 in one of Europe's fastest growing economies was now forecast at 6.5 percent of gross domestic product instead of the originally forecast 8.6 percent.
The inflation forecast had been raised to 8.7 percent from an earlier figure of 7.1 percent, while the budget deficit was pegged at 2.8 percent of GDP (news - web sites) against the original 1.3 percent.
"We have come round to the central bank's opinion and come to the conclusion that 6.5 percent is a cautious conservative assessment on which to base budget calculations," Azarov said after a cabinet meeting.
Azarov has sought to calm markets with assurances that the economy has weathered the political turmoil well. This week he said there were "no objective conditions for an economic crisis or for any deterioration in the situation."
Saturday's reassessment followed comments from a top central bank official that achieving the previous inflation and growth targets would amount to nothing short of a "miracle."
Inflation has been driven up by food supply disruption as a result of the post-election unrest, rising prices for crude oil imports and central bank hryvnia-printing to fund billions of dollar purchases since the start of the year.
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