The Wall Street Journal features an extraordinary story in Ukraine. It has disturbing echoes of the 2018 Salisbury story.
Russian operatives tried to assassinate Sergei Skripal (a defector) and Yulia Skripal (his daughter). This is the Salisbury story. Two people were found unconscious at a Salisbury bench on the afternoon of March 3. The woman’s eyes were open and fixed, and she was foaming at the mouth. It was later discovered that they had been poisoned by nerve agent. Three GRU agents were eventually identified as suspects by law enforcement. The suspects vanished and are likely to remain so.
People familiar with the situation said that Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch and Ukrainian peace negotiators were poisoned after meeting in Kyiv this month.
Following the meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Mr. Abramovich, who has shuttled between Moscow, Lviv and other negotiating venues, as well as at least two senior members of the Ukrainian team developed symptoms that included red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their faces and hands, the people said.
The victims blamed the suspected attack on hard-liners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war. A person close to Mr. Abramovich said it wasn’t clear who had targeted the group.
Mr. Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators, who include Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, have since improved and their lives aren’t in danger, the people said. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has met with Mr. Abramovich, wasn’t affected, they said. Mr. Zelensky’s spokesman said he had no information about any suspected poisoning.
The Guardian follows up on this with additional detail.
According to a source who was directly aware of the matter, Roman Abramovich, a billionaire from Russia and a Ukrainian peace negotiator were both diagnosed with poisoning.
The Guardian was told by a source that Abramovich, who had been taking part in informal negotiations on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, felt sick in March. Rustem Umerov from Ukraine was part of the negotiations. The men then left Ukraine to fly to Istanbul where they were treated for their injuries.
“It was during his first trip to Kyiv. Roman’s sight was lost for several hours. In Turkey, they were treated in a clinic, together with Rustem,” said the source.
A site devoted to investigative journalism revealed the backstory in this series of tweets I’ve captured via Threadreaderapp.
Abramovich, along with another Russian entrepreneur, had taken part in the negotiations alongside Ukraine’s MP Rustem Umerov. On the Ukrainian soil, the negotiation session lasted for about 10 minutes.
Three members of the negotiating team retreated to an apartment in Kyiv later that night and felt initial symptoms – including eye and skin inflammation and piercing pain in the eyes – later that night. They continued to feel the symptoms until morning.
Next day, the negotiators traveled from Kyiv and Lviv to take part in informal negotiations with Russia. They then drove to Istanbul via Poland, where they stopped at Istanbul. Bellingcat Investigator was asked to provide assistance for chemical weapons specialists.
Experts concluded, based on on-site and remote examinations that symptoms could be the result of poisoning by an unknown chemical weapon.
Another possibility was microwave radiation. The symptoms began to subside over the week.
Three of the men who experienced the symptoms ate chocolate and water within hours. One fourth of the group, however, did not suffer from symptoms.
The symptoms are most likely to be caused by variants of organophosphates, porphyrin or bicyclic substances, according to two CW experts. Due to the lack of specialist laboratory equipment, it was impossible to make a definitive diagnosis.
Experts said that the toxin was not sufficient to cause serious injury and was more likely to be used to scare victims than to do permanent harm. Victims said that they didn’t know of anyone who was interested in the attack.
This fits in with the earlier stories reported on Russian intelligence and mercenary death squads targeting Zelensky (Here’s How Volodymyr Zelensky Survived Three Assassination Attempts). As the Russians have carried out several assassinations on Kiev and Mariupol, one can assume that their support network is still in place.
Vladimir Putin’s shredding of international norms of behavior for years. Our security is dependent on his defeat in Ukraine. We must see Russia’s economy destroyed. Putin demonstrated that he does not desire to be a member of a group of nations. Instead, he wants Russia to have a space that virtually no other person in Europe would agree upon. Russia will need a location that is economically strong and military powerful. The stunt didn’t result in anyone dying, but those involved and the ones who ordered and planned it remain.