Skip to content

07KYIV282, UKRAINE: YUSHCHENKO POISONING CASE REMAINS

February 2, 2007

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07KYIV282.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV282 2007-02-02 15:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO6613
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #0282/01 0331506
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021506Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1108
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 000282 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: YUSHCHENKO POISONING CASE REMAINS 
UNSOLVED TWO YEARS AFTER HIS INAUGURATION 
 
Classified By: Ambassador, reason 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary.  More than two years after his 
inauguration as President, Viktor Yushchenko's face no longer 
has the huge chloracne bumps and pallid grey color resulting 
from his poisoning by dioxin in September 2004, and his Swiss 
doctors claim that 80 percent of the dioxin has left his 
system.  Despite Yushchenko's claims in December 2006 that 
Ukrainian legal authorities had all the evidence they need to 
press charges in the case and only lacked "courage" to 
initiate action, however, the prosecutor general's office 
(PGO) seems no closer to solving the case now than it did two 
years ago.  With Yushchenko clearly focused on his September 
5, 2004 dinner at the dacha of then Security Service deputy 
head Satsyuk, who reportedly fled to Moscow after the Orange 
Revolution, Prosecutor General Medvedko announced January 30 
that he was pursuing involvement of a mysterious masseur, as 
well as an alleged fish dinner Yushchenko had prior to the 
Satsyuk session. 
 
2. (C) Comment:  The Presidential Secretariat's newfound 
openness regarding Yushchenko's recent treatment in 
Switzerland comes after two years of unpublicized trips which 
raised questions about the extent to which the poisoning's 
lingering effects may have limited Yushchenko's capacity to 
act decisively as President.  In meetings and pubilc 
appearances, Yushchenko does not appear to be in pain or 
incapacitated in any way, although we continue to hear that 
he continues to take medication for pain.  Yushchenko's 
frustrated public comments about the case and PGO were an 
indication of the limited extent to which he has influence 
over the PGO, even in a case involving the poisoning of the 
head of state.  The PGO's lack of progress in what many had 
presumed would have been its top priority after Yushchenko 
became President in January 2005 mirrors the lack of progress 
in the Gongadze murder case, which the newly inaugurated 
Yushchenko said should serve as the measure of the 
effectiveness of delivering justice in the new Ukraine.  End 
Summary and Comment. 
 
New transparency for Presidential Medical updates 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
3. (SBU)  Analysis by a Dutch lab in December 2004 suggested 
that Yushchenko had the second highest levels of dioxin ever 
recorded in a human, 100,000 units per gram of blood fat, or 
6000 times normal (note: average levels of 15 to 45 units 
accumulate over time as industrial pollutants affect the food 
chain).  The most visible impact of the poisoning affected 
Yushchenko's scarred and pallid facial skin, with huge, 
bulging chloracne on his face and neck; the cold of winter 
turned his skin a purplish grey.  Yushchenko's doctors and 
family have never released any assessments of damage to 
Yushchenko's internal organs.  While Yushchenko told a 
visiting Congressional delegation in early February 2005 that 
his doctors had promised his facial skin would be "close to 
normal in six months" and showed changes in the base of his 
fingernails as evidence that the dioxin had started working 
its way out of his system, his chloracne only started 
subsiding significantly a year later, in 2006.  By the end of 
2006, the chloracne had essentially disappeared, leaving the 
man who until August 2004 had been Ukraine's most handsome, 
smooth-skinned politician with baggy jowls and a 
significantly pitted but more normal complexion. 
 
4. (C) For two years after his inauguration, Yushchenko made 
a series of unpublicized, multi-day trips to Switzerland for 
treatment of his dioxin poisoning.  Ukrainians would not know 
when their president was out of the country, and some visits 
only became known to the Embassy by chance: first Lady 
Kateryna Yushchenko's passing mention to U/S Dobriansky of a 
hotel-lobby encounter with previously anti-Yushchenko media 
mogul Rabinovitch in Geneva while on one of the 2005 
unannounced visits; then Presidential Secretariat Rybachuk's 
January 2006 comment to us that Yushchenko would be 
"completely unavailable" for several days that week; 
Tymoshenko adviser Nemyria's revelation on July 6, 2006, the 
day Moroz defected to join a Regions' led coalition in 
exchange for becoming Speaker, that Yushchenko had made 
desperate calls from Switzerland to Tymoshenko and Socialist 
leader Moroz in a failed last-minute effort to salvage the 
aborted Our Ukraine-Tymoshenko Bloc-Socialist coalition. 
Yushchenko's previously unknown out-of-the country absence on 
such a crucial day for the country's political development 
and his own political fortunes was a reminder that his 
poisoning, its unknown impact on his stamina, and the time 
demands of his out of country treatments remained an elusive 
X factor in his ability to act effectively as President. 
 
5. (SBU) In a departure from two years of secretiveness, the 
Presidential Secretariat announced in mid-January that 
 
KYIV 00000282  002 OF 003 
 
 
Yushchenko would travel to Switzerland January 19-23 for a 
series of tests and provided an interim update while he was 
still in Switzerland that doctors had determined Yushchenko 
was in good
 health.  Swiss doctor Jean Sora subsequently 
announced January 28 that 80 percent of the dioxin had left 
Yushchenko's body and that Yushchenko could work for extended 
periods of time; presidential press secretary Iryna Vannikova 
added January 29 that the medical tests in Geneva showed no 
organ malfunctions.  (Note: based on the reported December 
2004 dioxin levels, even an 80 percent reduction suggests 
Yushchenko's dioxin levels could remain as high as 20,000 
units, or 1200 times normal). 
 
The butler in the dacha, fish, or the masseur? 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
6. (SBU) After little public commentary in 2005-06 about 
progress, or the lack thereof, in the poisoning 
investigation, Yushchenko weighed in during his December 14, 
2006, end-of-year press conference, sparking a flurry of 
defensive, speculative comments by current and past 
authorities.  Yushchenko told reporters that the 
investigation had established who had poisoned him and that 
it would not be hard to prove: "There is enough information 
today to handcuff the people concerned, some of whom are 
outside of Ukraine.  The last facts as to who put which dish 
on the table, and where the poison could have been put into 
the food, have been established."  In a remarkable comment 
regarding the poisoning of the head of state, Yushchenko 
suggested the key question concerned prosecutorial will: "Do 
those people have enough courage to do what is required?" 
 
9. (SBU) General Prosecutor Medvedko, who inherited the case 
when he was promoted in November 2005, had himself claimed in 
a September 9, 2006 press conference in Kyiv that the 
investigation had determined the circumstances of the 
poisoning and that the remaining task was to find the 
conclusive evidence.  However, Medvedko backed away from 
Yushchenko's assertions the next day, December 15, while in 
Donetsk.  Denying that the GPO was a half-step away from 
solving the case, Medvedko claimed that the SBU, not the GPO, 
should investigate the case (note: the cautious Medvedko 
started his prosectorial career in Donetsk and Luhansk, where 
he chaired a committee involved in the initially botched 
prosecution of the 2001 Alexandrov murder, Ukraine's second 
most well-known journalistic death after the Gongadze case. 
Medvedko denied involvement in the falsification of evidence 
in the Alexandrov case and blamed the framing of an innocent 
man on other law enforcement officials). 
 
10. (SBU) Medvedko's deputy Rinat Kuzmin, a Donetsk native 
appointed Deputy General Prosecutor for criminal 
investigations after Yanukovych and Regions returned to power 
and prone to politically-motivated comments about orange 
politicians, further distanced the GPO from Yushchenko's 
comments on December 26.  Kuzmin claimed the investigation 
had no information about who, where, and how Yushchenko had 
been poisoned, that none of the law enforcement or 
intelligence agencies had such information, and that the case 
was too politicized.  Proceeding to politicize the poisoning 
himself, Kuzmin revived a 2004 blue camp allegation that 
Yushchenko could have been poisoned from within the orange 
camp, maintained that it was improper to focus only on one 
scenario (i.e., the dinner at Satsyuk's dacha), and said 
other scenarios should be examined (note: Kuzmin served as 
Kyiv Prosecutor from 2003-04 until being dismissed after the 
Orange Revolution; he was a close ally of Hennadiy Vasilyev, 
another Donetsk native who served as a politicized General 
Prosecutor from 2003-04 until he was dismissed by Kuchma as 
part of the December 8, 2004 compromise deal). 
 
11. (SBU) Former SBU Chief Ihor Smeshko, a guest at 
Yushchenko's September 5 dinner at his deputy Satsyuk's 
dacha, broke two years of silence on the poisoning January 26 
in an interview with "Fakty and Kommentarii," owned by Kuchma 
son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk.  Smeshko claimed that Yushchenko 
and PGO investigators had been captive to Yushchenko's 
statement that the poisoning attempt had been committed by 
the "criminal government" (i.e., the Kuchma regime then in 
power).  He suggested that Yushchenko could have been 
poisoned 90 minutes prior to the Satsyuk dinner, when 
Yushchenko dined at the dacha of the owner of the "Foxtrot" 
appliance chain, claiming that Yushchenko was served trout on 
a separate plate, a dish no one else shared (note: Smeshko 
claimed to a NY Times reporter in early 2005 that all 
attendees at the Satsyuk dinner had eaten food served 
communally.  Smeshko was no friend of Satsyuk, a close 
SPDU(o) ally of Kuchma Chief of Staff Medvedchuk who had been 
installed by Medvedchuk as Smeshko's deputy at the SBU 
against Smeshko's will and fled to Russia after the Orange 
Revolution). 
 
KYIV 00000282  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
12. (SBU) Medvedko held another press conference January 30, 
claiming two new suspects had been established as having been 
involved in the poisoning case, stating: "one of them is a 
masseur."  The unnamed masseur left Kyiv in September 2006 to 
a destination unknown to Ukrainian police, added Medvedko, 
who did not elaborate on why Ukrainian authorities had not 
known of or taken into custody the supposed suspect in the 
two years after the poisoning.  Medvedko also said that the 
PGO was examining Smeshko's contention about the Foxtrot 
dinner. 
 
Will poisoning ever be solved? 
------------------------------ 
 
13. (SBU) Note: Yushchenko's September 2004 poisoning took 
him off the campaign trail for six weeks, until just prior to 
the first round of the 2004 Presidential election (October 
31, 2004).  On the evening of the second round election day, 
November 21, 2004, a car parked for eight hours in front of 
Yushchenko's campaign headquarters in Podil turned out to 
have three kilos of hexogen-based plastik explosive in its 
trunk.  When police searched the car and found the 
explosives, they detained two individuals carrying fake 
Russian and Ukrainian passports, Russian citizens Mikhail 
Shugai and Marat Moskvitin.  Initially charged with an 
attempted terrorist act, smuggling of explosives, and use of 
fake documents, Shugai and Moskvitin were convicted of the 
latter two charges in June 2006 (the attempted terrorism 
charge was dropped) and sentenced to four and six years, 
respectively. 
 
14. (SBU) Comment: In the immediate aftermath of the arrests 
in 2004, which occurred hours before the Orange Revolution 
began, many Ukrainians viewed the apparent foiled bombing 
incident as a potential follow-up attempt on Yushchenko's 
life after the September poisoning.  Over time, however, no 
apparent connections emerged, and the trial of Shugai and 
Moskvitin did not uncover who allegedly ordered a potential 
attack on Yushchenko's campaign headquarters.  While Shugai 
and Moskvitin were convicted to multi-year sentences in June 
2006, it is not clear at this point whether anyone will ever 
be prosecuted for one of the highest pro
file political 
poisonings in recent decades. 
 
15. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

Advertisements

From → CONFIDENTIAL

Leave a Comment

Post tour comment here

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: