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Roman Abramovich was poisoned at peace talks — reports

March 28, 2022

Journalistic investigations have revealed that several negotiators, including Abramovich, suffered symptoms of a suspected poisoning. But both Russia and Ukraine dismissed the reports.

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich
Abramovich accepted a Ukrainian request to help negotiate an end to the Russian invasion of UkraineImage: Anthony Anex/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

At least two members of Ukraine's negotiating team and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich suffered symptoms of poisoning following talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations on March 3, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The report, which was confirmed by the investigative journalistic group Bellingcat, said the symptoms included skin and eye irritation. However, these all appeared to subside within a day.

The condition of those who reported suffering the effects of supposed poisoning have all improved and none is in danger, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Suspected chemical poisoning

The reported poisoning took place during talks held in Ukraine. According to Bellingcat, the Ukrainian negotiators first felt the symptoms that night after returning to Kyiv.

These included "eye and skin inflammation and piercing pain in the eyes," the group wrote on Twitter.

The negotiators reached out to Bellingcat, which connected them with a chemical weapons specialist for examination.

"The experts concluded that the symptoms were most likely the result of international poisoning with an undefined chemical weapon," the investigative group wrote.

Experts also told them that the small dosage was probably not enough to be life-threatening and was likely meant to intimidate.

Abramovich the mediator

Abramovich was involved in early talks between Ukraine and Russia, the Kremlin confirmed. He was also present at the cease-fire talks in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Abramovich has been "ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides'' but is not an official member of the Russian delegation. 

The billionaire and current owner of Chelsea Football Club had been traveling between Moscow and Lviv in an attempt to mediate between the two sides.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the oligarch had wanted to "do something" to "help somehow" with the aim of de-escalation. Abramovich also has long-standing ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich was also the subject of personal sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He has said that he will sell Chelsea.

While it is not clear who was behind the suspected poisoning, it has been frequent tactic used against opponents of the Kremlin.

Opposition figure Alexei Navalny was poisoned with Soviet-era agent Novichok while on a domestic flight and had to be taken to Berlin for treatment.

Russia denies allegation

On Tuesday, the Kremlin denied the reports that Abramovich had been poisoned, saying they were part of an "information war." 

"These reports obviously do not correspond to reality," Peskov told reporters. 

Ukraine warns against 'speculation'

Ukrainian negotiator and presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak warned against false information following the reports of alleged poisoning.

"In the information sphere right now there is a lot of speculation, different conspiracy theories and elements of one information game or another," Podolyak said, according to local media.

Rustem Umerov, a member of the delegation who was said to have been one of the victims, wrote on social media on Monday morning that he was feeling "fine."

"This is my response to all the yellow news 'gossip' spreading around. Please do not trust any unverified information. We have an informational war ongoing as well," he said.

ab/rt (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa)