Viktor Yushchenko

GRIGORY DUKOR/REUTERS

The first thing one notices about the opposition candidate is his face, full of scars and blisters that were absent from his once youthful, handsome visage just six months ago. And though Viktor Yushchenko, 50, raises bees in his spare time, he and his supporters from western Ukraine claim that there is nothing natural about his disfigurement, which they say is the result of a poisoning attempt by his political rivals in September.

The soft-spoken Yushchenko is very much an International Monetary Fund kind of man, committed to liberalizing the state-run economy. The fact that his wife is...

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