Monday, December 13, 2004

Dioxins and Yushchenko

If you believe the Austrian doctors, their finding is really shocking... ... yushchenko

They claim that the hypothesis about Viktor Yushchenko, the West-leaning presidential candidate in Ukraine (the situation has already been discussed here), who has been poisoned by dioxins, is now "rock solid". The concentration of dioxins in his blood is 1000 times larger than normal (actually 6000 times, according to the Financial Times)!

You know, dioxins are never healthy - they always represent a risk of cancer as well as other illnesses. In the Czech Republic, we know the word "dioxin" in relation with a chemical company called Spolana Neratovice that has been blamed for emitting more dioxins to the environment than what would be appropriate - and 80 people in the period 1964-68 became victims and suffered from similar problems as Yushchenko. (Spolana was producing something that, paradoxically and through various contracts, was used by the U.S. army in Vietnam as Agent Orange.) However, I am sure today even Greenpeace would not claim that the concentration of dioxins in the blood of citizens near Spolana is larger than the normal limits by three orders of magnitude! The situation improved drastically since the 1960s although it's not perfect yet.

Assuming the most obvious explanation for the large concentrations of dioxins in Yushchenko's blood, this event really looks like a horror story from the old Stalinist times - although the main open question remains "who did it?". Such things have been unfortunately common in the former Soviet Union, see e.g. the examples here: ...

Yushchenko had a dinner with a chief of the secret service or who was that exactly - and the following day he got sick.

I wish Viktor Yushchenko a lot of optimism and good luck. It's too late to worry about anything.


  1. Who benefits from poisoning-in-a-detectable-way but not outright killing Viktor Yuschenko?

  2. Come on, Arun.

    Try to eat 1000 times the normal amounts of dioxin, and I am curious whether you will survive.

    This was primarily meant to kill him. Also. Dioxins are not easy to identify - you need a very special kind of blood test that only a few places in Europe can do.

    The assumption of whatever person gave him the dioxins was that he would either day the second day, or he would be so destroyed by the sick skin that he would disappear from the elections.

    My understanding is that you have sympathies for the Eastern guys. Do you want to claim that nothing happened, or what? What sort of better evidence do you want to see that he was poisoned??


  3. Lubos,

    I have no sympathy for either guy in Ukraine. Both took significant foreign help, and in my eyes, that is a no-no.

    Look at it objectively. Dioxins are very hard to destroy, and as far as I know, even if the remains of someone who died of dioxin poisoning was cremated, the dioxins would likely remain in the ashes. I believe one has to go above 800 Centigrade to destroy these.

    Second, who said dioxins are difficult to detect and measure? The Environmental test agencies measure them at the level of picograms; e.g., the average UK intake of dioxins was measured to be 1.8 picograms a day in 2003.

    The following statement, by the clinician at where the blood test was done "Until recently there was no blood test for dioxin. This may be one of the reasons why this kind of poison, if it was a criminal act, was chosen" is not true, as far as I know. There have been blood tests for dioxin for a long time, at least for more than a decade, and at one time, they were going to do these tests on Vietnam veterans.

    If V.Y. has dioxin "1000 times the normal level" that amounts to what - we all are accumulating dioxins at the rate of about a picogram a day, more or less depending on what our diet is. So V.Y. has nanograms of dioxin in him?

    Question - who poisoned V.Y. with nanograms of dioxin, and what did they hope to gain from it?


  4. Dear Arun,

    concerning chemistry, I wrote that there are very just a few places in Europe today, in 2004, that can measure dioxins im blood. Be sure that I am not guessing and my sources are much more reliable than your random comments on this blog.

    Concerning the international help - your having no sympathy for a candidate because he is supported by the West really shows that you are standing on a very, very, very different side than I do. For me, what you say is just scary. Is it a sin to support the West and be supported by the West?


  5. Lubos,

    It is a crime in America to take foreign money to fight an election, and it is a crime in most places in the world. Being pro-West is not a crime, being accolated by the West is not a crime; but trying to win your national elections with Western money (or Russian money) is a crime, in my book. No person aspiring to national leadership should do this.

    I do not buy your assertion on your own authority that there are only few labs in Europe that can do a blood test for dioxin. Present some evidence. What secret source of knowledge have you about the availability of dioxin blood tests in Europe? If it is public knowledge then you should be able to point to it.

    For further interest: have not answered my question - who benefits from the poisoning of V.Y., but not enough to kill him? One answer the #2 in V.Y.'s organization. Ideal for the #2 is that V.Y. win enough sympathy to win the election, but not remain healthy enough to hold office. I can think of many more people who should be suspects including of course, the obvious ones.

    The Bashkortostan Republic Environmental Centre has been conducting blood tests for dioxin on workers in the city of Ufa that is situated at the eastern edge of Europe in the Bashkortostan Republic of Russia since 1992. I suppose Bashkortostan is much more advanced than either Austria or Ukraine.


  6. Arun is obviously too far left to realize that whatever the US does, including funding foreign politicians, is ultimately for the good of the world. ;-)

  7. Dear Arun, I hope that the Ukrainian authorities will be less biased than you. They will hopefully find those responsible for poisoning Yushchenko and punish them.

    Your statement that it is wrong to win elections if you are backed by the West is undefendable. You could apply this thesis to virtually all of anti-communist and pro-democratic movement in Eastern Europe - which is, more or less by definition, supported by the western democracies. No doubt, Havel, Walesa, etc. etc. - all of them received some funds from the Western sources. I can't imagine how someone can view it negatively.

    In my opinion, only a very irrational and dangerous anti-Western sentiment can be behind this attitude - and if such a sentiment becomes powerful and influence the actual events in the world, the West will have to remember that we still have weapons including nukes.

    The fact that dioxin detection requires state-of-the-art up-to-date high tech technology is a public, well-known fact, and I insist that you should have found it out yourself before you write misleading statements about this topic. For the high-tech character of dioxin detection, see e.g.

    Above, someone acquired one of the few laboratories that can detect dioxins. reports/Dioxin%20Action%20Plan%20Sub.pdf

    The last says: "Dioxin is an extremely toxic molecule, even at very low doses. Furthermore, it is very difficult to detect and to dose."

  8. And yes, Bashkortostan - whether or not you find it funny - is one of the leading places in dioxin detection - it's simply because the concentrations in this region are highest in the Russian federation, so they have built a relatively up-to-date center for detect dioxins in Bashkortostan.

  9. You might enjoy this:"The massive dioxin disinformation campaign has caused tremendous harm. But for Yushchenko it was a godsend. He'll look terrible for some time; but he's alive. Had the would-be assassin instead used a few drops of old-fashioned strychnine or even a teaspoon of the vital nutrient iron, Yushchenko wouldn't be running for president; he'd be pushing up Ukrainian daisies. Fortunately, the culprit bought into the myth that began with a guinea pig."

  10. Hey Arun, I've read that article already - is a friendly place of mine.

    I am really not quite sure whether the person wanted to kill Yushchenko immediately, or just disable him, or whatever else. My guess is that the editors of don't know it either.

    It's very possible, as speculates, that the "killer" thought (believed) that the dioxins were enough to kill Yushchenko. This belief could be an artifact of eco-terrorist alarmist threats that we see everywhere.

    On the other hand, the person may have also wanted to do exactly what happened, and he or she just believed that an ugly Yushchenko was unelectable. Who knows.

  11. Lubos, I've lost the URL, but e.g, in Wisconsin, you can get a dioxin blood test for $400. I think that is less expensive than an MRI. Anyway, people can look around and decide for themselves.

    I do think we have a different perspective on two things.

    First, perhaps the Czech republic had nothing that the West could steal, and for Czechs, the West was seen as the means of liberation from the Soviets. For someone from India (or most other parts of Asia or Africa) the West was a rapacious colonizer, destroyer of cultures, enslaver of peoples. As Mahatma Gandhi quipped, when asked what he thought of Western Civilization - "I think it would be a very good idea".

    Second, I believe that democracy is local. Ideally politicians are beholden only to their constituencies. A politician who takes foreign money is a foreign agent, less accountable to his constituents than he should be. In one way, the politicians who led Eastern Europe out of the Soviet embrace were foreign agents, in this case it happened to be a good result. But Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak and Idi Amin and Suharto and the Shah of Iran, the royal family of Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani military dictators Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq, Musharraf and so on were equally recepients of Western largesse/support, and it is to no good purpose. It helps prop up an unjust situation. American law too prohibits foreigners from contributing to American elections, but Americans seem to have no inhibitions in interfering abroad. If the American law is based on principle, then having the power to ignore principle does not make it right. On all counts foreign money in an election is wrong. Some good outcomes do not make it right.


  12. Arun, concerning dioxins: that's exactly what I meant. A dioxin test is very expensive and an average person must travel to a very different state to get it.

    Concerning your comments about Czechia: Czechia, first of all, IS West once again. It was a part of the West after it was created in 1918, and it returned to the West after the socialist experiment was terminated.

    There is a lot to steal in the Czech Republic, if you try, and it is also a strategically important country that played a role in most of global conflicts. The middle of Europe simply IS important.

    Your description of India is very confusing, too. India may have started the whole civilization, but it got sort of stuck at some moment. If I were Indian, I would mostly be grateful to the British who industrialized the region, built the railways, who allowed most Indians to learn English, which eventually became the #1 world's language, who brought there the modern democracy and capitalism, and so forth. I don't claim that everything was always perfect, but it was not bad.

    I don't believe that India would be doing better in most aspects of life if colonialism never existed.

    Your description of the leaders of the anticommunist movement as "foreign agents" is just silly. They were as independent as you can get - and some of them were also very patriotic. They just shared some values and the interests with the West, so of course the West was trying to help them, express its moral support, buy Xerox machines for them, and give them room in Radio Free Europe etc. ;-)

    The comparison of Eastern Europe with the Arab world does not work simply because NONE of these leaders in the Arab world was ever really promoting the Western values as we know them. The West always had to choose the least bad solution among the bad options. I believe that Hamid Karzai is really the first counterexample in the muslim world - and Iyad Allawi could be the second one if he were electable. Yes, I am not sure whether it is really possible to export freedom, but Afghanistan may eventually become a good example, and Iraq may follow. We will see.

    I disagree that any foreign money in any elections is wrong. The laws banning foreign money are good laws if they protect a working society from the high-entropy, less developed, disordered influences from abroad that could either damage the society, or try to occupy the country. This explanation makes it totally different if you consider different countries. I would be more than happy if it were possible to pay for better leaders to be elected in Iraq in the elections to be held soon.

  13. raises more questions.

    E.g "As for the Rudolfinerhaus clinic itself, it is a private hospital which deals mainly with wealthy clients who come for elective surgery or treatments.  It is NOT an emergency hospital (of which several other fine facilities exist in Vienna) and seems a very odd choice for a man who cannot walk and is clearly quite ill.  In fact in the linked article above, the former president of Austria (Thomas Klestil) was treated at the AKH Hospital in Vienna for multiple organ failure and a heart attack.

    According to its own website, Rudolfinerhaus specializes in: obstetrics, same day surgeries (aka "outpatient" surgeries), a sleep disorder clinic, diagnostic tests, physiotherapy and long-term nursing services.  Oh and a dental facility as well."

  14. Lubos,

    Your statement that "India is better off for having been colonized" is equivalent to saying - your mother is better off for having been raped. Her rapist was a high class guy after all.


    Hitler was (unintentionally) the greatest liberator in history - his war destroyed the European powers, ended 300 years of colonial expansion, and most of Asia and Africa became politically independent. In the scale of things, Czechoslovakia was a small sacrifice for the sake of so much of humanity. Of course, Europeans had another horror to offer the world - Marxism, Stalinism and the like.


    India was more literate in 1830 than it was in 1900 (when it was 10%) or 1947 (when it got independence). After British took full control of India in 1857, per capita income dropped by 50 percent by 1900. The British are responsible for as many deaths in India as the Nazis and Soviets combined. E.g., take a look at "Late Victorian Holocausts" - and read it, don't get mislead by the blurbs. The British destroyed all self-government in India, and all institutions, and tried to impose their own junk.

    Nazism, Marxism, Colonialism - they were all equally destructive. Yes, the Nazis invented jets and rockets and the Soviets put the first man in space; the Soviet Union was a scientific power, and did make most of its people literate, etc., but no part of Europe is the better for having had these.


    D.P. Agarwal.

    "In fact, as early as 1804, the Governor of the Madras Presidency wrote to his masters (the President of the Board of Commissioners) in London:

    We have paid a great deal of attention to the revenue management in this country...the general tenor of my opinion is, that we have rode the country too hard, and the sequence is, that it is in a state of the most lamentable poverty. Great oppression is I fear exercised too generally in the collection of the Revenues."

    "A similar fate awaited the extensive network of Indian schools and institutions of higher learning when they began to be surveyed in the 1820s and 1830s. Ironically, it is mainly through the British archival records that one becomes aware of the extensive nature of the education network, as well as its speedy decay in the Madras and Bengal Presidency, and somewhat later in the Presidencies of Bombay and in the Punjab. "


    Anyway, it doesn't matter. Your illusions are too thick to be shatteredIf they were possible, you'd immediately see what Bush & Co are doing in Iraq is an attempt to resume history where it stopped (kind of) after World War II. The lies that "Iraq poses an imminent threat" have worn off - and a real threat is the only legitimate reason to go to war. Now the Kiplinguesque White Man's Burden is invoked - we have to democratize Iraqis, civilize them. Bombing occupied cities - did the Soviets do any such thing in Afghanistan - is immensely uplifting to a country, I'm sure. Anyway, forget it, and goodbye.

  15. You write various things, Arun, and some of them are tolerable.

    But what you write about Hitler is absolutely outrageous:

    "Hitler was (unintentionally) the greatest liberator in history - his war destroyed the European powers, ended 300 years of colonial expansion, and most of Asia and Africa became politically independent."

    I apologize but Hitler has caused tens of millions of deaths; moreover, he diminished the power of the European democracies, and even his loss in the war implied another disaster - namely the expansion of the Soviet communism that ate the Eastern Europe for nearly 50 years.

    If you're happy to join Hitler BECAUSE he reduced the influence of countries like Britain, than you're an extremely dangerous person. This act was just another of Hitler's crimes.

    "Liberating" Africa and Asia was just another of these large mistakes that were implied by Hitler's sick plans. Incidentally, look how Africa looks like today, is it one of your sources of pride? If Hitler succeeded with his plans, he would be gradually exterminating all nations East from Germany, and one can get to India this way. Saying that this would be better than having your peaceful British friends in India is totally shocking, disgusting, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Is your opinion shared by many people in India? The same India that some people describe as a nice country with very nice people?

    Concerning your example with the raper. It's a very extreme example - but be SURE that under certain circumstances the mother would be better off, too, especially if the nice rich raper protected the mother from poverty and killers.


  17. Count how many deaths the British are responsible for in India, and Hitler looks like a petty criminal.

  18. Sorry, Arun, but the British (and their wars meant to protect their colonial influence) are responsible for 1.5 - 1.8 million of deaths in India throughout the several centuries of colonialism. This is like two months of Hitler.

    If you want to count all people in India that died during that period, e.g. because of famine (22 million), be free to count them as British murders. I will not join you.

  19. Lubos,

    Hitler wrote more or less, that if Germany could not rule the world, his second choice would be the English. He thoroughly approved of the colonial enterprise. My point is that the British and the French were not going to quit their empires on their own; Hitler's war made that happen.

    Anyway, only somewhat related to the topic, but interesting reading nonetheless:


  20. Arun, as you've probably noticed, I am not going to celebrate the end of colonialism - and certainly not Hitler's role in this event. There's nothing to celebrate.

    The colonialism was both bad as well as very good.

    The fact that Hitler considered the British to be the second best race after the Germans has nothing to do with the question whether colonialism was good or not. The more enlightened the colonists are, the better colonialism may be. The British were much more englightened than Hitler and Stalin.

  21. Sorry, I meant to quote this excerpt along with the URL

    In sum, Huntington's claim that Western civilization is the bearer of a heritage of liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, and other similarly attractive ideals--all of which are said to have permeated other civilizations only superficially-- rings false to anyone familiar with the Western record in Asia in the so-called age of nation-states.


  22. Arun, the Western civilization is not only the bearer, but to a large extent it is the *originator* of most of these principles and ideals that you listed.

    The West has not "invented" everything that is important for good our life today, and no doubt, other civilizations have contributed a lot, too.

    It's also true that many of these principles were not respected in all acts that the West has ever made. On the other hand, it is equally clear that they could not have been respected in every context.

  23. Hi Lubos,
    I went to NYC with my Ukrainian boyfriend twice for Ukrainian election. (so I was glad to see this position here.)

    My bf showed me a video clip of Yanokovich being attacked by an egg, and he looked at the egg, and then two seconds later he fell unconscious into arms of his body guard, whose arms were ready open there (almost) even before the egg comes. Yanokovich claimed that someone attempted to kill or attack him. I wonder if Arun watched that video clip.

    I certainly do not know enough about Eastern European situations very well, but if we have to choose one of two candidates, I would never vote for a person who manipulates the election result and who pretends to be unconscious after being hit by an egg.

    It's sad that they cannot win the election without outside money, they should avoid if they could. See how much money Russia spends on Ukrainian election, and why did the Russian President visit Ukraine right before election and announced that Ukrainian travelers in Russia do not need to register any more? Isn't it that the Russian president wanted to buy Ukrainians' favor on pro-Russian candidate?

    Maybe one can argue that something is fishy about Yushchenko's claim that he has been poisoned by the pro-government party. But is the other candidate less fishy then?

    p.s. Japan built railway system (so that they can carry what they stole from China to Japan) and power plants and factories. At the same time, they did experiments with Koreans on topics like how long people can stay alive without drinking water or in high temperature or without water. During the Second World War, Japan took many young and innocent women to the war as sex slaves as you can read at (mostly Korean women, but we also hear from Chinese or Taiwanese women on this topic)

    No Korean thinks Japanese colonization was a blessing. They killed far too many people, and tortured far too many people in all the possible weird ways. Korea never forgets this and Japan rarely even admits the fact, so they don't get along together despite the geographical proximity.

    The colonization truly hurt a lot of Koreanness, its culture and pride. (they physically destroyed many of its cultural heritage to kill the mind.) And I guess the same situation with the Indians. Colonization truly breaks down a nation's identity.

    I honestly don't know what Indians feel about British colonization now, but it sounds like a dangerous statement that India is better off that they were colonized, though their colonization maybe was not the worst case of possible. (and I hope you don't think that way for the Native American Indians, either.)


    The Ukraine Security Service was backing Yuschenko.
    So much for one theory of poisoning.