All you need to do is compare pictures of Viktor Yushchenko before September this year and after – judging from his red, swollen and pock-marked face, the health of Ukraine’s opposition leader has clearly taken a turn for the worse.
On 5 September, Yushchenko fell severely ill after a dinner with the head of Ukraine’s security services. He was diagnosed with acute gastro-enteritis. But Yushchenko claimed he was suffering from another kind of intoxication: he accused the Ukrainian authorities of trying to poison him. A few weeks later, a Ukrainian doctor who accompanied Yushchenko to Vienna’s renowned Rudolfinerhaus clinic where he was treated issued a certificate strongly suggesting he was poisoned. This diagnosis was not endorsed by the clinic’s director Lothar Wicke who said the author of the certificiate also happened to be a close friend of Yushchenko. Wicke also claims to have received veiled threats by Yushchenko’s supporters not to go against the diagnosis. The clinic concluded Yushchenko’s illness could have been caused either by a severe viral infection or by chemical agents not usually found in food. “Theoretically, this kind of illness could have been caused by bad food,” said a clinic spokesman, “but we haven’t found any proof of this. What is certain is we can exclude food poisoning caused by mushrooms.” So mushrooms are not to blame for Yushchenko’s ravaged face. But it remains uncertain what is. Yushchenko stands by his claim that he was poisoned. Some medical experts say his face shows similar symptoms to those of chloracne, caused by the infamous chemical warfare agent orange. Most agree that no natural illness could have caused such physical devastation so fast.