Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ukraine's been downgraded from Salman Rushdie to Agatha Christie, by C.J. Chivers, in his New York Times piece about "a plot that would make Christie proud".

National security service guys are hurt:

With a plot that would make Christie proud, much of Ukraine's leadership finds itself in the role of suspect, including General Smeshko, the S.B.U. chairman, who met with a Western reporter for what he described as the first time in a 32-year career.

"The main message is this: Our security service did not do Mr. Yushchenko any harm, and did not try to do him any harm," he said. "This we know for sure. All other versions we will check."

When asked how he reacted to being mentioned publicly as a suspect, General Smeshko, who has two young sons, answered with a question. "How would you like it if your kids asked you, 'Did you do it, Dad?'" he said, locking eyes with a reporter for several long moments.

He added: "It is really painful. We will do everything to know the truth. Basically, this is a case for the dignity of our whole service."

And furious:

Still, public attention remains focused on the late-night meal, frustrating investigators who say a larger window of time needs to be examined, and infuriating Mr. Satsyuk, the host, who challenged the opposition leader to accuse him to his face.

"I am ready to meet live on the air with Mr. Yushchenko," he said. "I would like him, looking into my eyes, to say that he was poisoned at my dacha. I can do this at any press conference at any time.

The Russians remain proud:

Russia's special services scoff at suggestions of their involvement. "I consider it below my dignity to comment on," said Boris N. Labusov, the senior spokesman of the S.V.R., Russia's foreign intelligence service.

Kuchma's family offers great insight - but says nothing about the headless body of Georgiy Gongadze:

Mr. Kuchma's family, which also has said it was not involved, said the dacha theory was foolish. Any government wanting to kill an opponent, the family's line of thinking goes, would not try it at a meeting with government officials. "I think they are not kamikazes," said Viktor M. Pinchuk, Mr. Kuchma's son-in-law and a member of Parliament.

A New York Times caption writer must have been watching too much Peter Greenaway lately - that's way cooler than Agatha Christie, if you ask me:

But he/she got most of those Ukrainian names wrong:

The Victim - Viktor A. Yuschenko [sic] nearly died, but is not helping the authorities. The Wife - Kateryna Chemechenko [sic] tasted something medicinal on her lips. The Spy Chief - Gen. Ipor [sic] P. Smeshko ate crayfish and drank beer with the victim. The Host - Vladimir Satsyuk provided the dacha for a midnight meal.

Mr. Chivers (or is it Shivers?) encountered a similar problem: according to David Zhvaniya, Yushchenko's campaign aide, Yushchenko's wife is one of those "normal" Americans who react unreasonably when they hear about KGB - but her last name is too weird for an American... either Chumechenko, or Chemechenko... only God knows how to spell it correctly...

Mr. Zhvaniya also dismissed statements by Mr. Yushchenko's wife, Kateryna Chumechenko [sic], who is an American citizen, that she tasted something medicinal on his lips after he returned from the dacha. "She is a normal woman, and to her with the words K.G.B. and S.B.U. comes an unreasonable reaction, the more so because she was brought up in the United States," he said. (Toxicologists say dioxins are tasteless, although Dr. Schecter pointed out the provenance of this assertion is uncertain; he knew of no one who had ever tried tasting them.)

(The right answer is Chumachenko.)

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