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Poland, Belarus & Ukraine Report: December 15, 2004

15 December 2004, Volume 6, Number 46
EU UNVEILS 'ACTION PLANS' FOR SOME NEIGHBORS. The European Commission on 9 December raised the stakes in its evolving "neighborhood policy" by issuing "action plans" for seven partners.

They are Ukraine and Moldova as well as EU Mediterranean neighbors Tunisia, Israel, Morocco, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.

The EU's 25 members must now approve the action plans, which were presented today by EU Commissioner for External affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner. She said the plans would be a key policy aim over the next five years as Brussels seeks to extend the zone of "peace, stability, and prosperity" to countries around the EU: "The European Union gains the benefits of a stable neighborhood. Our assistance will support countries with their own economic and policy reforms, to spread...the benefits of prosperity and democracy."

The 9 December report also says the European Commission will consider in February whether to issue "action plans" for the three South Caucasus countries.

However, Ferrero-Waldner stressed that no EU neighbor is being offered the prospect of membership in the bloc: "Let me be clear about what the ENP is and what it is not. It is not an enlargement policy. It does not prejudge prospects for European countries that may at some future point wish to apply for membership, but it does not provide for a specific accession prospect either. What is it [then]? It is an offer. It's a substantial offer, it's a real concrete offer: the offer of much deeper cooperation, and a progressive integration -- this is important -- a progressive integration into certain EU policies and programs, depending, of course, on the fulfillment of commitments."

The action plans are tailored for each country and guided by priorities set by the nations themselves -- within an overall framework approved by the EU.

The EU has in the past ruled out membership for its Mediterranean neighbors. Ukraine and Moldova are the only countries among the current crop picked out for action plans with a theoretical chance of accession.

A document accompanying the individual "action plans" underscores the significance of democratic developments in Ukraine.

Ferrero-Waldner said she would personally travel to Kyiv to present Ukraine's "action plan" as soon as a rerun of the contested presidential elections is held in accordance with rules set by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Ferrero-Waldner also addressed what she called the "difficult" situation in Moldova: "Moldova is in a difficult situation with the persistence of the conflict over Transdniester. Now, the neighborhood policy provides an incentive for it to persist with political and economic reforms, and to cooperate with the European Union over a whole range of issues, including justice and home affairs where our interests are at stake or for instance at cross-border cooperation, which is very important there."

The Ukraine "action plan" draws particular attention to Kyiv's role in aiding efforts to find a viable solution to the Transdniester conflict.

Ferrero-Waldner reiterated the EU's standard that the bloc does not think its neighborhood policy will cause a split with Russia. Moscow, which has refused to become a beneficiary of the neighborhood policy, has warned the EU not to meddle in former Soviet republics.

Ferrero-Waldner noted that Belarus, seen as the closest country in the region to Russia, is too undemocratic to qualify for an "action plan."

Illegal immigration and organized crime are key EU concerns in its relations with eastern and southern neighbors. Ferrero-Waldner said the plans would improve cooperation on those issues.

Partners in the "action plans" will have to enter into commitments to bring their laws to EU standards, fight terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and agree to strive to peacefully resolve all regional conflicts.

Other conditions include democratic reforms, respect for the rule of law and human rights, and fundamental liberties, including freedom of the media: "And our partners gain what? Closer cooperation, as I said, financial assistance, and this will be stronger in the future, the chance to participate in EU programs, and indeed a stake in the biggest single market in the world."

Ferrero-Waldner said EU neighbors in the future could also participate in EU policies on education, research, the environment, and enjoy improved energy, transport, and communication links with the bloc. (Ahto Lobjakas)

MINORITY REPORT: KEEPING YOUR WORDS RATHER THAN YOUR BOOKS. Ten Belarusian journalists and publishers have been charged with misuse of state-budget money and dishonest bookkeeping -- if found guilty, they will reportedly face prison sentences from five to eight years. Well, there is hardly anything left for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to surprise the world with regarding his attitude toward journalists. At least, that is probably what most people will think first when reading these lines. But wait a moment. This time the story is not about utterly authoritarian Belarus but democratic Poland.

Ethnic Minority

There is a small community of ethnic Belarusians living in Podlasie Province in northeastern Poland, along the country's border with Belarus. According to a census in 2002, some 48,700 people in Poland declared Belarusian ethnicity, including 46,400 in Podlasie Province. Unofficial estimates by members of the Belarusian minority claim that the true number of Polish Belarusians is around 150,000. People may have kept their Belarusian origin a secret in front of census-takers for fear of problems either in their Polish neighborhoods or at work. Instead, they supposedly declared Polish origin or refused to provide any information on their ethnicity. The 2002 census found that of Poland's 38.23 million people, 471,500 (1.23 percent) declared an ethnicity other than Polish, while 774,000 (2.03 percent) refused to declare an ethnicity.

Belarusians in Podlasie Province run several organizations, including the Belarusian Social and Cultural Association, the Belarusian Union of Students, the Union of Belarusian Journalists, the Union of Belarusian Youth, and the Belarusian Literary Association. Apart from the Belarusian Social and Cultural Association, which was established in 1956, all other organizations emerged as legal entities in either the late 1980s or early 1990s under the circumstances of Poland's declining communist rule and budding democracy.

A pivotal role in maintaining the ethnic identity among Polish Belarusians is played by the Belarusian-language weekly "Niva" (Field), which is published in Bialystok, the provincial capital. Established in 1956, it was published in the communist era by Prasa-Ksiazka-Ruch, a state-owned press monopoly. In the early 1990s, after the privatization of Prasa-Ksiazka-Ruch, Belarusian organizations formed the Niva Program Council, a body that became the weekly's new publisher.

Every Belarusian organization in Poland has the right to equal representation on the Niva Program Council Board. The board, which operates on a nonsalaried basis, determines the weekly's publishing guidelines as well as appoints and dismisses the "Niva" editor in chief. Currently, seven Belarusian organizations are represented on the council. Apart from issuing the weekly, the "Niva" Program Council also publishes several Belarusian-language books every year.

"Niva," like several other national-minority weeklies in Poland, is subsidized by the state budget through the Culture Ministry in Warsaw. The state spends some 300,000 zlotys annually ($95,000) to support "Niva." The average monthly salary in "Niva" for its staff of 10 is below 1,000 zlotys ($310) per person, which is less than half the average monthly pay in Poland. Under such financial incentives, Belarusian minority activists say, "Niva" is being kept afloat primarily thanks to its staff's dedication and enthusiasm for the cause of supporting and promoting a Belarusian ethnic identity in Poland.

Presumed Minority Conspiracy

In 2003 the Bialystok division of the Supreme Audit Chamber (NIK) conducted an audit on how "Niva" disposed of its budget subsidies in 2001-02. As reported in July 2003 by "Kurier Poranny" -- a local Polish-language daily in Bialystok which apparently got its information from someone at NIK -- NIK auditors found that the "Niva" publishers in that period spent 174,000 zlotys ($55,000) for purposes other than those listed in their applications for budget subsidies. Moreover, the NIK charged that the "Niva" publishers tried to obtain higher subsidies by inflating the weekly's circulation and publication costs. Thus, "Niva" reportedly asked for 1.15 million zlotys from the state for 2001-02 while, in fact, it managed to survive on 699,000 zlotys (of which some 620,000 came from the state treasury).

In September and October 2004, prosecutors in Bialystok formally accused Eugeniusz Mironowicz, who was "Niva" editor in chief and chairman of the "Niva" board in 2001-02, along with nine other current or former members of the board and a bookkeeper, of misusing some 99,000 zlotys ($31,500) and of cooking the accounting books for this purpose, thereby violating a 1994 law on accounting. The investigators allege that for obtaining this particular sum, Mironowicz "acted in cooperation and agreement" with the board and the bookkeeper in order to "derive material benefits," which seems to be a legal way of saying that the suspects conspired to commit theft.

Mironowicz tells a different and rather astonishing story that seems to reveal a profoundly ridiculous (as well as potentially dangerous) mechanism for running a state-subsidized minority newspaper in a situation where both the level of subsidies as well as the timing of their disbursement is often uncertain. According to Mironowicz, since the mid-1990s subsidies to "Niva" have usually come two or three months late, that is, in March or April instead of January. To make the situation even more difficult, "Niva" could obtain subsidies for a subsequent year only after pledging to the Culture Ministry in writing that it would spend the previous year's money by the end of October. (This was an unexplainable bureaucratic demand from the state; it was annulled following the NIK audit of "Niva.") How the "Niva" board could publish the weekly for four or five months between the exhaustion of old subsidies and the arrival of fresh ones was of no concern to the Culture Ministry, the NIK, or the prosecutors.

But that was of grave concern for Mironowicz and his colleagues, who promised both their organizations and Belarusian readers that "Niva" would appear every week without interruption. Mironowicz decided to save money on individual newspaper issues and books published by the "Niva" board in 2001 by reducing their production costs. The cost-saving measures, which even included a painful cut in the journalists' meager salaries, were made to keep the weekly afloat in November and December 2001, when Mironowicz was formally not allowed to spend money from the 2001 subsidies and in January-April 2002, when the 2002 subsidies were still pending. These measures, however, automatically made him a "misuser" of 2001 subsidies, which had to be spent in whole prior to 31 October 2001 and, additionally, a "fraud," since he managed to publish the weekly in January-October 2001 for a lower sum than he was actually given by the Culture Ministry for that purpose.

In other words, the prosecutors are essentially blaming the "Niva" board for having been able to put aside state money in order to use it for publishing the newspaper during the period when it might have suspended publication because of a lack of funds. The prosecutors call it a conspiracy against state interests, a conspiracy that was allegedly intended to provide "material benefits" for the conspirators. However, the prosecutors have yet to discover any "material benefits" obtained by people who were not paid money or rewarded in any other way for serving on the "Niva" board.

Mironowicz also denies the NIK's charges that he tried to obtain more money than he actually needed in 2001-02, under false pretenses, by inflating the weekly's publishing costs and circulation. "When you ask the ministry for 20,000 zlotys to subsidize a book but get only 10,000 zlotys and still manage to publish it for this halved sum, it does not mean that you try to trick the state out of 10,000 zlotys," Mironowicz said. "It only means that you publish less copies of the book, print them on poorer-quality paper, and pay a lower honorarium to the author than you initially planned."

Therefore, "misuse of public funds" reflects a structural flaw in the way state subsidies are allocated, not a misappropriation of those subsidies. In October 2004, Prosecutor Bozena Kiszlo, who is overseeing the investigation, explicitly told Polish journalists that none of the "Niva" Board members put even a single zloty in his or her pocket. Their crime, she explained, is in violating the law on accounting. She denied that there are political or ethnic motives behind the case against "Niva."

What Mironowicz admits to is a number of unintentional mistakes made by his bookkeeper in entering various items in the "Niva" financial books. However, according to Mironowicz, these mistakes qualify him and the accountant for obtaining an official warning and/or paying fines rather than for serving prison terms along with nine other people who have never seen or even cared to look into these books.

Presumed Official Clampdown

If matters stand as Mironowicz asserts, why have the NIK investigators and prosecutors in Bialystok built such a terrifying case against the "Niva" board? RFE/RL has spoken with Mironowicz, current "Niva" Editor in Chief Eugeniusz Wappa, and current "Niva" board member Oleg Latyszonek. Wappa, like Mironowicz, is a suspect in the "Niva" case. Latyszonek did not serve on the "Niva" board in 2001-02. However, they all consider the real motive behind the legal attack on the weekly to be an official intention to compromise "Niva" publishers as antistate crooks, intimidate the Belarusian minority as a whole, and undercut any further development of the ethnic identity of Belarusians in Poland. They say that "Niva" and classes of Belarusian language for some 3,000 schoolchildren in Podlasie Province are the most important factors obstructing the advancing assimilation of the Belarusian minority in Poland, thus constituting them as primary targets for what the Belarusian minority sees as an official clampdown. It is no accident, they add, that after auditing the Belarusian-language weekly, the NIK has focused its investigative efforts on schools that teach the Belarusian language in the region.

By coincidence, the three RFE/RL interlocutors are well-known historians in their field; Mironowicz and Latyszonek work as history professors at a local university in Bialystok. They point out that Belarusians in post-World War II Poland had only two intervals of a relatively tolerant official attitude toward their ethnic development -- the post-Stalin "thaw" from 1956-1968 and the 1990s. In the 1970s, an official doctrine calling for a "nationally homogenous state" was implemented by Poland's ruling communist party, and many aspects of the Belarusian minority's previous activities were stifled or eliminated. The second "political thaw" for Polish Belarusians came with the collapse of communism in 1989 and lasted for the next decade or so.

"It doesn't matter who is in power in Poland -- the reds, the browns, or the greens," Mironowicz said. "Sooner or later, the very presence of Belarusians in the Bialystok region makes Poles turn to the moral and psychological intimidation of the minority." According to Mironowicz, the current conflict around "Niva," which is threatening to divide the local community into "us" (Belarusians) and "them" (Poles), may have been sparked by the results of the 2002 census, which showed the authorities that Belarusians have not assimilated completely and are set to survive into the 21st century as a distinct ethnic group. Mironowicz recalls that after the liberation of Poland from the Nazi occupation in 1945, ethnic minorities accounted for some 18 percent of the country's population. Sixty years later, this ratio shrank to a mere 1.23 percent.

Wappa explains what potential criminal convictions for the "Niva" board members would mean in practical terms for the entire minority. "Even minimal sentences for representatives of seven Belarusian organizations would deprive them of further state subsidies to publish the weekly as well as of the possibility to apply for EU subsidies for Belarusian projects in Poland," he said. The current circulation of "Niva" is just under 2,000 copies per week.

Vox Populi

However, what is the most painful for "Niva" journalists and publishers is the reaction to their legal troubles by three Polish-language dailies appearing in Bialystok. Belarusian journalists say that for their Polish colleagues the guilt of the "Niva" board is a foregone conclusion. Accordingly, they say, the dailies have presented the "Niva" case tendentiously, without going into intricate and peculiar details of subsidizing and publishing the Belarusian-language weekly. "Every [Mironowicz's] attempt at publicly explaining the case is presented [by the Polish-language dailies] in such a way as to make the explanation look grotesque, ridiculous, and criminally laden," a "Niva" journalist wrote in October.

It is no wonder, perhaps, that the public atmosphere in Bialystok is extremely hostile and even vocally aggressive toward "Niva." While discussing the "Niva" case in October, many participants in a "Gazeta Wyborcza" online chat forum ( were convinced that Belarusians "have thievery in their genes" and that they fully deserve what's coming to them.

"This may be just the voice of a chauvinist imbecile," Wappa commented. "Unfortunately, there are many other people in Bialystok who think about Belarusians similarly, in essence, even if not in the very same terms. This is extremely troubling, particularly as nobody among them seems to realize that Belarusians, too, pay taxes and have the right to demand that a part of those taxes be spent on a newspaper in their minority language."

Latyszonek maintains that the case against "Niva" reflects a general sliding of both public sentiments and political classes in Poland into nationalism coupled with intolerance toward ethnic minorities. He also points out that none other than Jan Rokita, leader of the Civic Platform -- widely believed to be Poland's most liberal and pro-European party -- spoke in a recent parliamentary debate against allowing ethnic minorities to speak their mother tongues in public offices where they live. "This evidently indicates that nationalism will be high on the agenda in next year's general elections in Poland," Latyszonek predicted.

Latyszonek, Mironowicz, and Wappa are from the generation of Polish-Belarusians who wholeheartedly welcomed the democratic changes in Poland in the early 1990s, seeing in them a unique chance for the free development of political, cultural, and educational aspirations of their minority. Now they are somewhat less enthusiastic about the turn events have taken in Poland in recent years. Latyszonek, who spent eight months in prison for his activities in Solidarity after the imposition of martial law in 1981, has an especially revealing perspective for looking at his country. "In 1981 I believed that there was a place for an anticommunist, Orthodox Belarusian in the same ranks with Poles," he said. "But they have gradually transformed the Solidarity movement and what has become of it into a place only for Poles and Roman Catholics. Today I feel like a fool when telling fellow Belarusians that I was in Solidarity, let alone that I sat in prison for it."

Is there any hope for a change of interethnic relations in Bialystok for the better? Latyszonek hesitates to make prognoses for the entire community. But he sees one good thing for himself. "If I had to go to prison for 'Niva' I don't think that I would ever regret this," he said. "Because I know that now I'm standing in the right ranks." The trial has not yet been scheduled. (Jan Maksymiuk)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author worked for the Belarusian-language "Niva" weekly in Poland in 1989-93 as a journalist. He was one of the organizers of the "Niva" Program Council in 1992 and served on its first board.

ELECTION END-GAME: YANUKOVYCH AS AN INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE. Last week, President Leonid Kuchma signed a decree allowing Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to go on leave to campaign for the rerun presidential election on 26 December. Simultaneously, Kuchma appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov as acting head of the cabinet. Kuchma's decisions effectively defied the Verkhovna Rada's vote of no confidence in Yanukovych's cabinet on 1 December. At the same time, however, they have stripped Yanukovych of considerable political leverage that he possessed in the campaign while he was full-fledged prime minister.

Yanukovych left Kyiv for his native region of Donetsk. He has so far made campaign trips to Luhansk and Sevastopol, his two other electoral strongholds, but failed to appear in any central region of the country, let alone in western Ukraine, which voted overwhelmingly for his rival, Viktor Yushchenko, on 31 October and 21 November. The rules of the election endgame for Yanukovych have radically changed in comparison with the two previous votes. Now most regional governors seem to have lost faith in Yanukovych's ability to win and either sided with his rival or taken a neutral position in the campaign.

Even more significantly, the "Orange Revolution" has liberated the Ukrainian media from the clutches of official censorship and self-censorship, and now both Yanukovych and Yushchenko receive more or less equal and balanced coverage on most television channels. This represents a crucial breakthrough in the media sector in Ukraine, especially as in the first week of the Orange Revolution only the pro-Yushchenko Channel 5 showed antigovernment rallies on Independence Square in Kyiv and in other Ukrainian cities. According to Ukrainian media, now only the Donetsk-based Ukrayina television channel has remained completely devoted to Yanukovych in presenting a one-sided picture of developments in the country.

It is no wonder, perhaps, that this new political situation in Ukraine has forced Yanukovych into refurbishing his political image as a government-supported candidate into something more digestible for voters outside his political strongholds in the east and south of Ukraine. Yanukovych has begun to promote himself as an independent candidate who is disengaged from President Kuchma in particular and the Ukrainian government in general. "My opponents are using a propagandistic stereotype [by referring to] the Kuchma-Yanukovych regime," he told journalists on 6 December. In fact, Yanukovych revealed, as prime minister he was forced to make compromises with the presidency and "restrain his emotions" because, he added, he wanted to procure an "economic wonder" for all of Ukraine as he did in the Donetsk region while he was its governor.

Yanukovych also suggested that his two-year premiership represented a "new power" in Ukraine. "I can say openly that two types of state power have existed in our country for the last two years -- old power and new power," Yanukovych said on 6 December. "So our citizens should make their own conclusions as to whether Yanukovych is a candidate of the new power or the old power. I am sure that Yushchenko represents an attempt by the old power to seek revenge."

On 9 December Yanukovych distanced himself from the current authorities even further by charging that they are doing nothing to prevent what he sees as "persecution" of his supporters in Ukraine. "I am the candidate of 15 million [voters]," he said on the Ukrayina television channel. "I am not campaigning as a candidate from the shameful authorities that have given up their position." According to Yanukovych, a part of the government has now sided with Yushchenko. "In fact, I have to fight today against a united group," he added.

A day later, Yanukovych took the biggest swing to date at his former political allies and patrons. "We have no president in Ukraine," he told journalists in Donetsk. "If you see him, show me where he is. Where was he during this orange coup d'etat?" And Yanukovych overtly accused the government and Kuchma of betraying him. "I am very frustrated by the fact that I trusted those cowards and traitors with whom I've worked for two years. I was right when I said that I've worked for the past two years fighting not only to strengthen my position but also against these shameful authorities."

Yanukovych also came out with several memorable phrases about Ukrainian journalists and their role in the country. "Be free and value your rights, be such as you should be by your nature -- free, honest, and independent," the Mass Information Institute website ( quoted him as saying last week. What is more, Yanukovych recalled the case of slain Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze -- about which he remained silent during his two years as prime minister in Kyiv -- and promised to take the case "under his personal supervision in order to investigate this resonant crime."

In other words, Yanukovych stepped onto the same path for which he previously scolded his presidential rival, Yushchenko; namely, he has became highly critical of the power system only after losing his clout in it. It seems to be a path followed by many other politicians elsewhere, but Yanukovych has a strong point here in highlighting the ambiguous political behavior of "president-in-waiting" Yushchenko, who served as prime minister in 1999-2001 and worked together with the "shameful authorities" without paying much attention to either the situation of the Ukrainian media in general of the Gongadze case in particular.

Is Yanukovych's astounding transformation into an oppositionist genuine? There are few in Ukraine who believe so. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn spoke for many when he opined on 13 December that Yanukovych's current antigovernment rhetoric is just an element of campaign propaganda intended to mobilize some part of the anti-Kuchma electorate into taking his side. "I think [this rhetoric takes its origin] in the election logic that makes us distance ourselves from the power system and remain in it at the same time," Lytvyn said.

But for many voters in the east and south of Ukraine, Yanukovych's bitter words about official betrayal and cowardice sound convincing. Those who voted for Yanukovych on 31 October and 21 November see the Orange Revolution in Ukraine not only as the prime minister's personal defeat, but also as a grave national setback. For them the prevalence of the "poor rural west" over the "rich industrial east" of the country comes not as a triumph of democracy over authoritarianism but rather as personal humiliation and frustration. It is they who appear to be primarily targeted by Yanukovych in his brand-new role as an oppositionist. (Jan Maksymiuk)

YUSHCHENKO CONVINCED HE WAS POISONED BY AUTHORITIES. Viktor Yushchenko said he wants Ukraine's prosecutor-general to determine the truth about how he was poisoned.

But the 50-year-old opposition candidate for president said that the investigation, which was reopened yesterday, should be delayed until after a repeat of Ukraine's presidential election on 26 December. Yushchenko said he doesn't want the findings to influence the election.

"I am convinced that this [poisoning] is the work of those in power. Absolutely convinced," Yushchenko said. "Time is now needed for the investigation. A lot of the circumstances are already known. I think that if the prosecutor-general's office acts according to Ukraine's laws, both the country and the world at large will soon know who did this."

Yushchenko was speaking late on 12 December after returning to Kyiv from Vienna, where doctors confirmed that his blood contains about 1,000 times the normal amount of dioxin.

On 13 December, Ukraine's parliament reopened its own investigation into the matter.

Yushchenko said the evidence of dioxin poisoning has made it essential that investigations be continued.

"I think what was said at the clinic, I mean establishing that poisoning in fact took place, changes the case," Yushchenko said. "I therefore welcome the step taken by the prosecutor-general."

The Austrian physicians say it is impossible for them to determine exactly when Yushchenko ingested the poison. But one of those physicians, Dr. Michael Zimpfer, said 12 December that he suspects dioxin was put into something Yushchenko ate.

"It would be quite easy in fact to administer this amount [of dioxin] in a soup that contains cream because of the issue of fat solubility," Zimpfer said. "As relates to the circumstances regarding a criminal investigation, this doesn't fall within our purview. We have made a final diagnosis as well as an additional diagnosis that we suspect a cause triggered by a third party. There is the suspicion of third-party [outside] involvement."

Yushchenko and his American-born wife have said in recent weeks that he began to feel ill a few hours after he ate dinner with Ukrainian Security Service chief Igor Smeshko and his deputy Volodymyr Stasyuk.

The dinner was served at Stasyuk's countryside cottage in early September. The menu included at least one creamy dairy product -- a dish of fermented mare's milk called "koumiss." It also included sushi, crayfish, rye bread, watermelon, sweet cakes, wine, cognac, and home-distilled vodka.

Yushchenko has told journalists that he developed a headache several hours after eating the dinner and was struck by a severe stomachache about 12 hours later.

Ukrainian security officials and government authorities have denied any involvement.

Yushchenko's political opponents have suggested he simply ate a bad plate of sushi that was washed down with too much cognac. But Yushchenko has rejected that notion, saying the dinner did not include any spoiled food.

Ukrainian physicians initially thought Yushchenko was suffering from a flu or from exhaustion. Four days after his symptoms emerged, Yushchenko was transferred for the first of three visits to the Rudolfinerhaus medical clinic in Vienna.

On 12 December, Dr. Zimpfer said doctors failed to recognize the cause of Yushchenko's illness during his earlier visits to Vienna because the tell-tale sign of dioxin poisoning -- the yellowish-colored acne -- didn't break out on his skin until later.

"It has not been observed anywhere else beforehand because the oral way of ingestion elicited a complete different picture at the very onset," Zimpfer said.

Marc Siegel, an associate professor at New York University's School of Medicine who specializes in internal medicine, told RFE/RL that confirmation of dioxin in Yushchenko's blood leaves no doubt that Yushchenko was intentionally poisoned.

"Why is it that they weren't able to kill him if he was poisoned?" Siegel said. "The answer is that a person's response to dioxin is actually somewhat unpredictable. Some people metabolize it faster than others. Some people metabolize it better than others. So they may have made enough of it thinking that they were actually going to kill him with this. And yet, his personal metabolism was able to get rid of enough of it so that he survived."

Siegel said that Yushchenko's skin disfigurement, stomach illness, and other current health problems are likely to disappear with time and proper treatment. But Siegel said that prolonged exposure to dioxin raises larger concerns about Yushchenko's future health.

"What may happen is, unfortunately, there seems to be evidence that prolonged dioxin exposure increases your risk for cancer," Siegel said.

Siegel also said that Yushchenko could be debilitated for long periods as a result of his continued use of prescription pain medication. (Ron Synovitz)

"The regime that was in place for 14 years in Ukraine is now living its last days." -- Yushchenko in Kyiv on 12 December; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.

"I think it would be appropriate to compare this [orange revolution in Ukraine] to the fall of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am very happy that we were able to mobilize the Ukrainian community to stand up for its rights." -- Yushchenko in Kyiv on 12 December; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.

"In terms of the percentage of votes for me on the 26th of December, I would say modestly that this should be more than 60 percent." -- Yushchenko in Kyiv on 10 December; quoted by an RFE/RL correspondent.

"No politician from Viktor Yushchenko's team, let alone those from the rival camp, knew before 22 November how a revolution works, what its internal mechanism looks like. Everybody thought that if a large-scale [election] falsification occurred and, God forbid, Yanukovych was declared president, a million of people would gather and start smashing shop windows and expensive cars, plunder the party offices of our opponents, and resort to violence with regard to state officials. It turned out, however, that the mechanism of a revolution is completely different. This was more like a shrine. Those unique orange rallies resembled shrines in the open air. And they influenced state officials with a moral force, not physical one. State officials have become different -- policemen, soldiers, and officers were coming to [Independence] Square to pledge allegiance to the people." -- Yuliya Tymoshenko, Yushchenko's political ally, in an interview with the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( on 14 December.