Oligarch Abramovich Believes He Was Poisoned by Russia: Reports

Roman Abramovich at the Kremlin in 2016. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who has been attempting to broker peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, may have been poisoned along with multiple Ukrainian negotiators earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Abramovich and “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,” according to sources who spoke with the paper. The symptoms have abated and are not considered life-threatening. The alleged poisoning took place in Kyiv, but it’s not clear exactly when it happened or why information about it is only emerging now. “The victims blamed the suspected attack on hard-liners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war,” per the Journal. Russian president Vladimir Putin has a long history of allegedly employing poison as a political punishment, from the assassination of defector Alexander Litvinenko to the attempts on the lives of double agent Sergei Skripal and his wife, Yulia, and, separately, opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Guardian’s Shaun Walker confirmed the reports and added new details about symptoms:

The prominent investigative site BellingCat, which conducted an investigation, said it could not obtain samples needed to determine any chemical or biological agent’s provenance, since Abramovich and the others were hurrying to get to Istanbul from Lviv, in western Ukraine. A BellingCat investigator told the Journal that the alleged poisoning “was not intended to kill, it was just a warning.”

Abramovich, who has been close with Putin for decades, has been traveling between Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus since the war started, meeting separately with Zelenskyy and Putin — even carrying a note from the Ukrainian president to the Russian leader — in a thus far futile attempt to help end hostilities. Zelenskyy recently asked President Joe Biden not to impose sanctions on Abramovich.

With his purchase of the Chelsea Football Club 19 years ago, Abramovich, who made billions in post-Soviet early 1990s Russia, had positioned himself as a West-friendly oligarch. But the U.K. government froze his assets after the war began, and the Premier League disqualified him as a director of Chelsea Football Club, which he still owns for the time being. Abramovich is likely eager to reinforce his reputation as he shuttles back and forth between capitals.

Roman Abramovich Believes He Was Poisoned by Russia: Reports