Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered minor skin peeling and sore eyes during Ukraine-Russia talks "a few weeks ago" in Turkey, a source close to the Ukrainian negotiation team told CNN, adding the incident was not regarded as serious.
Reuters on Monday cited an unidentified US official saying intelligence suggests Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators were sickened due to an environmental factor, not poisoning. "The intelligence highly suggests this was environmental," the official said.
It comes after the Wall Street Journal and investigative group Bellingcat reported on Monday that Ukrainian negotiators and Abramovich suffered from suspected poisoning earlier this month on the sidelines of talks aimed at ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Wall Street Journal and Bellingcat reported the poisoning occurred during the sidelines of talks in Kyiv while a source close to the Ukrainian negotiation team told CNN the incident occurred on the sidelines of talks in Turkey.
A source close to the Office of Ukraine’s Presidency, speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, said of poisoning reports, “This is not true. Just another case of disinformation.”
Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podoliak did not outright deny the incident, saying instead that all Ukraine’s negotiators were working as usual. Podoliak told CNN: "There is a lot of speculation, various conspiracy theories and elements of different information games in the media field now. Therefore, I repeat once again — the members of the negotiation group are working today in a regular mode."
A spokesperson for Abramovich would only say “No comments from us, thank you”, when contacted by CNN on Monday.
Abramovich, who was sanctioned earlier this month by the UK government along with other Russian oligarchs following Russia’s invasion, has been acting as an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine, shuttling between Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul, Warsaw and beyond amid a whirlwind of talks aimed at ending the conflict, his spokesman confirmed last month.
Abramovich’s role as interlocutor in Russia-Ukraine talks is not in an official capacity. He is not acting as part of a Russian delegation or as a Russian mediator.