The Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian peace negotiators were poisoned, as a third round of peace talks starts today in Turkey.
The owner of Chelsea FC, Abramovich is one of the many Russian billionaires sanctioned by the UK and EU after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month, his poisoning comes as a surprise to NATO as he has a long and colourful history with Russian president Vladimir Putin going back to the fall of the USSR in 1991.
Claims of poisoning were first reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the independent news outlet Bellingcat, this was despite an unnamed US official said yesterday that the evidence ruled out poisoning.
With US analysts claiming “The intelligence highly suggests this was environmental, not an act of poisoning”.
All of them are receiving treatment for sore eyes and peeling skin, common symptoms of exposure to chemical weapons.
Russia has a track record of poisoning enemies of the state going as far back as the October Revolution, with cases as recent as: Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny in 2020, British double agents Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018, and former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
The story remains murky with the Kremlin denying all accusations, A spokesman for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said “There is lots of speculation at the moment and we recommend only following any official information”.
Abramovich was brought into the peace talks as a back channel to Russian president Vladimir Putin by Ukrainian producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
Sources in Moscow claim that Abramovich had personal meetings with both Zelensky and Putin over the past month, and had travelled to Istanbul for the third round of peace talks yesterday.
Abramovich was confirmed to have been at the second round of peace talks in Belarus, two days later Ukrainian official Denys Kireev was assassinated.
It is unknown if his assassination was due to his role in the peace talks in Belarus, Zelensky called him: “A hero to the Ukrainian people”.