Dec. 12, 2004 -- A Ukrainian presidential candidate's chief of staff believes "Soviet Union … sort of KGB experts" were behind a plot to poison his candidate, the aide told ABC News' "Good Morning America" today.
Austrian doctors said Saturday that Viktor Yushchenko, who faces a Dec. 26 runoff in Ukraine against the Kremlin-backed candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, was poisoned with dioxin as he campaigned for president.
When asked by ABC News' Bill Weir if the Russian government, and specifically President Vladimir Putin, had anything to do with the poisoning, Yushchenko chief of staff Oleh Rybachuk said: "I am not very positive about government, but what I might say that was Soviet Union … sort of KGB experts are clearly involved in this plot."
Rybachuk did not directly implicate Yanukovych in the poisoning, which is believed to have happened at a dinner party in September, but said it was a much broader conspiracy.
"I wouldn't call this ordered by the prime minister," said Rybachuk. "Let's say it more broadly. It's the regime."
Rybachuk added that Yushchenko had been forewarned of the plot.
"I actually talked to [Yushchenko] in late July when getting messages from both Ukrainian and Russian ex-secret service agents saying there was a plot and poisoning is number one," he said.
Rybachuk said the agents warned the campaign that the goal would not be to kill Yushchenko but to make him an "invalid" in order to knock him out of the campaign.
"We couldn't believe they would dare, but they did," said Rybachuk.
Yushchenko has called for an investigation into the poisoning plot, but said it should wait until after the Dec. 26 election. Nevertheless, Ukrainian prosecutors today reopened a probe into the allegations of poisoning.
Ukraine's Supreme Court ruled that the initial election results declaring Yanukovych the winner were tainted by fraud, setting up a new election.
Yushchenko will take a couple of days off before resuming the campaign, said Rybachuk.
"The worst is over," said Rybachuk. "He feels great … [but] he needs rest."