Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators suffered a suspected poisoning after meetings in Kyiv at the beginning of the month as part of talks to end the war in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the situation.
He and Ukrainians at the talks experienced peeling skin, red eyes, loss of eyesight and headaches, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information wasn’t public. The Wall Street Journal first reported the alleged poisoning.
Abramovich and Rustem Umerov, a Ukrainian parliamentary deputy and negotiator, flew to Istanbul, Turkey to be treated, according to the people. It is unclear who was behind the attack or what type of poison might have been used, they said. They have both recovered and Abramovich remains involved in attempts to broker a peace deal.
Umerov said on Twitter he is “fine” and did not confirm the report of poisoning.
I’m fine. This is my response to all the yellow news spreading around.
Please do not trust any unverified information. We have an informational war ongoing as well.
Stay safe. Slava Ukraini! 🇺🇦
— Rustem Umerov (@rustem_umerov) March 28, 2022
Ukraine and Russia are due to start a new round of peace talks in Istanbul Tuesday in their first face-to-face negotiations in more than two weeks.
Abramovich has been involved as an unofficial mediator to try to end the war in Ukraine since soon after Russia’s invasion. He has been sanctioned by the U.K. and the European Union as part of sweeping penalties against Russian billionaires believed to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked the U.S. government to refrain from sanctioning him because of his involvement in the peace process, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Russia has been blamed for multiple attempted poisonings over the past 15 years. In 2018, the U.K. said Russian intelligence agents were behind the use of the nerve agent novichok to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury, England. Both survived but a British citizen died after coming into contact with the poison. In 2006, the U.K. blamed Russian agents for the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, who died after being exposed to radioactive polonium.
Russia denies any role in those cases. –Bloomberg