Probing the Plot to Poison Yushchenko
By Francesca Mereu
February 10, 2005
It was a clear September night when Yevhen Chervonenko left presidential hopeful Viktor Yushchenko healthy and in good spirits ahead of a secret meeting at a dacha near Kiev.
Chervonenko, at the time Yushchenko's head of security and now Ukraine's new transportation minister, said he usually went everywhere with Yushchenko and even tasted his food. But that night was an exception. Yushchenko was going to the dacha to dine with Ukrainian Security Service chief Ihor Smeshko and his deputy, Volodymyr Satsyuk.
"I was told that I was not required that night because the organizers wanted the meeting to be confidential," Chervonenko said in an interview.
Yushchenko's bodyguards also were not allowed to accompany him, he said. The only member of his team who went along was his campaign manager, David Zhvania. Yushchenko, who was already leading Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the polls, had requested the Sept. 5 meeting to discuss the election campaign and death threats he had begun receiving in July. The men sat down for a meal of boiled crayfish, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and corn and beer, followed by cold meats washed down with vodka and cognac.
The next day, Yushchenko fell seriously ill and his body was racked with pain, Chervonenko said. Slowly, a mask of bumps and cysts crept across his once-handsome face -- symptoms that he had ingested a dose of pure TCDD, the most hazardous dioxin, Vienna doctors later determined.