Ukraine, US intelligence deny rumors that peace negotiators were poisoned

U.S. and Ukrainian officials on Monday denied an unsubstantiated rumor that negotiators working to end the war in Ukraine, including Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, were poisoned this month.

The poisoning rumor was detailed by “people familiar with the matter” in a report published Monday by the the wall street journal (WSJ), which cited a survey by the open-source journalism collective called Bellingcat:

Mr Abramovich, Ukrainian lawmaker Rustem Umerov and another negotiator developed symptoms following the March 3 meeting in Kyiv, including red eyes, constant and painful watery eyes and peeling skin on his face and shoulders. hands, the people said. Mr Abramovich has shuttled between Moscow, Belarus and other trading venues since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr Abramovich was blinded for a few hours and then struggled to eat, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Some of those familiar with the matter blamed the alleged attack on hardliners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war. A person close to Mr Abramovich said it was unclear who had targeted the group.

the WSJ Sources said everyone involved has “improved” over the past four weeks and “their lives are not in danger”.

The alleged sources added that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was unaffected by the alleged attack, which “Western experts” say could have been carried out with anything from chemical weapons to biological agents or electromagnetic energy, as with the long rumor”Havana Syndromeillness experienced by American diplomats in several postings around the world.

The Bellingcat investigation was led by Christo Grozev, who also investigated chemical weapons attack on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny in 2020. Grozev said diplomats who allegedly fell ill in Kyiv could not be examined quickly enough or thoroughly enough to definitively establish that they were poisoned. He felt that given the relatively mild symptoms, if negotiators were maliciously attacked in any way, it was “just a warning”.

the WSJ opined that the warning could have been directed primarily at Abramovich, a half-Ukrainian billionaire with ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin who worked independently to broker a peace deal with Ukraine. The poisoning theory suggests that “hardliners” loyal to Putin and eager for the war to continue are unhappy with Abramovich’s efforts.

the Washington Post Monday cited an anonymous associate of Abramovich who suspected a “third party”, people not directly controlled by the Russian government, of carrying out the alleged attack. This source, like those cited by the WSJ, said Abramovich had made a full recovery and was doing “fine”.

Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to President Zelensky, on Monday fired the WSJ Bellingcat’s report and allegations as “speculation” and insisted that all Ukrainian negotiators were “business as usual”.

“There’s a lot of speculation on the news, various conspiracy theories and elements of one or more news games,” Podoliak said. noted. “Therefore, I repeat once again: the members of the negotiation team are working full time today.”

Ukrainian media noted on Monday that one of the allegedly poisoned Ukrainian negotiators, Rustem Umerov, explicitly dismissed the poisoning rumor as “yellow news” and part of an “information war” on his Facebook page. Umerov implied that the poisoning rumor was the work of Russian propagandists.

An anonymous US official said Reuters Monday that the illness Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators were suffering from was probably “not poisoning”.

“Intelligence strongly suggests it was environmental,” the official said, without giving further details.

During a national television interview on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba informed his country’s negotiators “do not eat or drink anything” and “preferably avoid touching surfaces” when meeting the Russians.


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