Ukraine's parliament Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to weaken presidential powers and change electoral law, breaking an impasse between outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and the opposition.
Opposition parliamentarians last week
"This is an act of consolidation and reconciliation that proves Ukraine is united and indivisible," parliament speaker Volodymyr Litvin said right after the historic vote backed by 402 members of the 450-member legislature.
Parliamentarians also voted to dismiss the central election commission as part of a compromise between outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and the opposition aimed at
diffusing a weeks-long political crisis.
Solana: Yushchenko was poisoned
The European Union's top foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, meanwhile confirmed Wednesday that a doctor who treated Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko believed the suddenly disfigured politician was poisoned.
"I've spoken a lot with the doctor in Vienna," Solana told French radio station Europe 1 in an interview from the Hague. "I've spoken with him, I've been in contact with him by telephone and he told me at the time that he thought he (Yushchenko) had been poisoned."
Solana did not give the name of the doctor he spoke to, but Yuschchenko was treated at Vienna's Rudolfinerhaus clinic four days after falling ill Sept. 6.
Yushchenko after (left) and before (right) his illness
He emerged to campaign in presidential elections that remain contested with his appearance radically altered. His once-smooth skin had become rough and bloated, his eyes shrunken under dry folds of flesh. He suffered swelling of the liver, pancreas and intestines and several ulcers.
Biological or chemical agent
Britain's The Times newspaper reported Wednesday that Yushchenko had been poisoned in an attempt to kill him during the election campaigning, according to Nikolai Korpan, a doctor who oversaw his treatment.
Korpan said British, French and US specialists had established that a biological or chemical agent or most likely a rare poison had been used to strike down the presidential candidate and that the toxin was within days of being identified.
"This is no longer a question for discussion," Korpan was quoted as saying. "We are now sure that we can confirm which substance caused this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim."
Asked if the aim had been to kill him, Korpan said: "Yes, of course."
Final confirmation of an assassination attempt through poisoning could dramatically reshape new presidential elections called for Dec. 26. Yuschchenko is seen as a pro-West candidate, while his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is perceived as wanting to keep Ukraine under Russia's influence.