KIEV, Ukraine — Lawmakers fought over and failed to pass legal reforms aimed at ensuring a fair rematch of Ukraine’s fraudulent presidential runoff, accusing each other Tuesday of acting in bad faith as several thousand orange-clad protesters besieged parliament and chanted, “Parasites! Parasites!”
The demonstrators, supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, have grown impatient over lack of progress in approving the electoral amendments sought for the Dec. 26 repeat vote.
Yushchenko supporters say the changes will close loopholes for fraud that marred the Nov. 21 runoff and prompted the Supreme Court to cancel the victory of Kremlin-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
But a loose coalition of communists, socialists and pro-government factions in parliament agreed to pass the electoral changes only together with constitutional changes, which would turn some presidential powers over to parliament.
Yushchenko has balked at the changes, saying that allies of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma want to weaken his authority should he win.
In a development that could have a dramatic effect on the rematch, the Times of London Web site reported late Tuesday that doctors who treated Yushchenko for a mysterious illness during the initial campaign have determined there “was an attempt on his life” with a biological or chemical agent or a rare poison.
“There is no longer a question for discussion,” the newspaper quoted Dr. Nikolai Korpan, who treated Yushchenko at the Rudolfnerhaus clinic in Vienna, Austria. “We are now sure that we can confirm which substance cause this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim.”
The newspaper then said it asked Korpan if the aim had been to kill Yushchenko, to which the doctor was quoted as responding: “Yes, of course.”
Yushchenko fell ill Sept. 6 and was rushed to the Vienna clinic four days later. Yushchenko has accused the Ukrainian authorities of poisoning him. His detractors suggested he’d eaten some bad sushi. Known for his almost movie-star looks, Yushchenko’s skin now is severely pockmarked. His face is haggard, swollen and partially paralyzed. One eye often tears up.
Late last month, Korpan had said the cause of Yushchenko’s illness remained “totally open.” He told the Times on Tuesday that the substance that was administered to Yushchenko would be identified in a matter of days, but physicians needed him to return to Vienna for an examination.
“We need to check him again here in Vienna. If we received him today, we could finish the whole investigation in two or three days,” Korpan was quoted.
In Sofia, Bulgaria, Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected Russian charges of Western political manipulation in Ukraine’s electoral process. Powell addressed the 55-nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe after hearing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggest the West was interested in a power grab in Ukraine.