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Senior Ukrainian prosecutor poisoned by mercury vapor

KIEV, January 9 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian prosecutors have opened a criminal case into the poisoning of a deputy prosecutor general with mercury vapor, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mykola Holomsha, 45, has undergone intensive therapy since the poisoning, and is now back at work, continuing to head investigations into the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze and the alleged poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko in 2004.

Gongadze, who had been investigating government corruption, was kidnapped on September 16, 2000, and his decapitated body was later found in a ditch near Kiev, Ukraine's capital.

The circumstances of his death sparked protests against the government of then-president Leonid Kuchma.

During the 2004 presidential election, Viktor Yushchenko was reported by some doctors to have suffered from dioxin poisoning.

Three months ago, Holomsha began suffering from bad headaches and a metallic taste in his mouth. An examination of his office revealed a mercury vapor concentration level four times above the norm. Medical tests later confirmed that Golomsha had been poisoned.

Prolonged exposure to mercury vapor affects the nervous system, causing headaches, fever, depression, loss of memory, and can lead to eventual respiratory failure and death.

In December last year, Ukrainian media reported that Holomsha had been nominated by Yushchenko as Prosecutor General. Holomsha denied this.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Holomsha was fired by the then prosecutor general, Gennady Vasilyev, on the grounds of "political motivation and the inappropriate organization of a criminal investigation." Holomsha was reinstated by a Kiev court as deputy prosecutor general a month later.

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