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Report: Russian and Ukrainian negotiators poisoned during peace talks

Roman Abramovich. (Brian Minkoff-London Pixels, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
March 28, 2022

Two Ukrainian negotiators and a Russian businessman assisting in the negotiations with Russia were intentionally poisoned during a round of peace talks at the start of this month, a report first revealed Monday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, Ukrainian lawmaker Rustem Umerov and another member of the Ukrainian delegation developed poisoning symptoms after peace talks in the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv. People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that after the peace talks, Abramovich and the two Ukrainian delegation members developed symptoms including red eyes, and tearing and peeling of the skin on their faces and hands — all of which are consistent with poisoning by chemical weapons.

The investigative publication Bellingcat tweeted that it had confirmed Abramovich and the two Ukrainian delegates experienced poisoning symptoms.

Bellingcat tweeted that after symptoms manifested for Abramovich and the two Ukrainians, one of the publication’s investigators “was asked to help provide an examination by chemical weapons specialists.”

“Based on remote and on-site examinations, the experts concluded that the symptoms are most likely the result of international poisoning with an undefined chemical weapon,” Bellingcat tweeted.

“An alternative less likely hypothesis was use of microwave irradiation. The symptoms gradually subsided in the course of the following week,” Bellingcat added. “The three men experiencing the symptoms consumed only chocolate and water in the hours before the symptoms appeared. A fourth member of the team who also consumed these did not experience symptoms.”

Christo Grozev, an investigator with Bellingcat told the Wall Street Journal the poisoning incident “was not intended to kill, it was just a warning.”

Sources for the Wall Street Journal blamed the potential poisoning symptoms on Russian hard-liners opposed to the peace talks. All three alleged poisoning victims have seen their symptoms improve and are no longer in danger.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal previously reported Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly told U.S. President Joe Biden not to sanction Abramovich, as he was proving useful in peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Abramovich reportedly has longstanding ties to Russia’s Kremlin, but has been working to help end the fighting between Russia and Ukraine since the early days of Russia’s invasion.

Wall Street Journal’s sources said Zelenskyy, who met with Abramovich, was not harmed. A spokesman for Zelenskyy said the president had no information about any suspected poisoning.

Western experts who looked into the alleged poisoning incident said they could not yet determine if the symptoms were caused by a chemical or biological agent, or even by an electromagnetic-radiation attack.

Russia’s Kremlin did not respond to a Wall Street Journal request for comment on the allegations.