Viktor Yushchenko before and after his poisoning by Vladimir Putin in 2004. He and his family believe the assassination attempt was ordered by Putin when he attempted to steer Ukraine to closer integration with Europe.
In September 2004 Yushchenko became seriously ill. He was flown to Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic for treatment and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, accompanied by interstitial edematous changes, due to a serious viral infection and chemical substances that are not normally found in food products.
Yushchenko claimed that he had been poisoned by government agents. After the illness, his face was greatly disfigured: jaundiced, bloated, and pockmarked.
British toxicologist Professor John Henry of St Mary’s Hospital in London declared the changes in Yushchenko’s face were due to chloracne, which results from dioxin poisoning.
Dutch toxicologist Bram Brouwer also stated his changes in appearance were the result of chloracne, and found dioxin levels in Yushchenko’s blood 6,000 times above normal.
On 11 December, Dr. Michael Zimpfer of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic declared that Yushchenko had ingested TCDD dioxin and had 1,000 times the usual concentration in his body.
Many have linked Yushchenko’s poisoning to a dinner with a group of senior Ukrainian officials (including Volodymyr Satsyuk) that took place on 5 September.
Ukrainian prosecutors said Russia has refused to extradite one of the men, the former deputy chief of Ukraine’s security service, Volodymyr Satsyuk, because he holds both Russian and Ukrainian citizenship.
After arriving in Russia, Satsyuk was granted Russian citizenship protecting him from extradition.