Incident on sidelines of Ukraine-Russia

Monday 28 March 2022

Negotiators suffered mild skin peeling and irritated eyes as a result of an incident on the sidelines of Ukraine-Russia talks

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According to a source close to the Ukrainian negotiation team, there was an incident "a few weeks ago" during Ukraine-Russia talks in Turkey in which Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian negotiators suffered minor skin peeling and sore eyes, but the incident was not considered serious, according to the source.

According to Reuters, information indicated that Abramovich and the Ukrainian peace negotiators were afflicted by an environmental cause rather than poisoning, citing an unnamed US official. "The intelligence strongly implies this was environmental," the person told Reuters, adding, "not poisoning."

This comes after the Wall Street Journal and the investigative group Bellingcat claimed on Monday that Ukrainian peace negotiators and Abramovich were poisoned on the fringes of discussions aimed at settling the Russia-Ukraine war earlier this month. The Wall Street Journal and Bellingcat stated the poisoning occurred during the sidelines of talks in Kyiv while a source close to the Ukrainian negotiation team tells CNN the incident occurred on the sidelines of talks in Turkey.

"This is not real," a source close to Ukraine's presidency told CNN on condition of anonymity, referring to reports of poisoning. "It's just another case of misinformation," says the author.

Mykhailo Podoliak, a Ukrainian negotiator, did not dispute the occurrence explicitly, instead stating that all of Ukraine's negotiators were working as usual. CNN quoted Podoliak as saying: "Today, all members of the negotiating group are at work as usual. In the media world today, there is a lot of conjecture, various conspiracy theories, and parts of various information games. As a result, I'll say it again: the members of the negotiation group are functioning normally today."

When contacted by CNN on Monday, an Abramovich representative only said, "No comments from us, thank you."


Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich, along with other Russian oligarchs, was sanctioned by the UK government earlier this month. His spokesman confirmed last month that Abramovich has been acting as an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine, shuttling between Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul, Warsaw, and beyond amid a flurry of talks aimed at ending the conflict.

"I can confirm that Roman Abramovich was called by the Ukrainian side for support in obtaining a peaceful conclusion, and that he has been attempting to help ever since," Abramovich's representative stated on Feb. 28. Given the stakes, we would appreciate it if you could understand why we haven't commented on the matter or his role."

The involvement of Abramovich as an interlocutor in Russia-Ukraine discussions is not formal. He is not representing a Russian delegation or serving as a Russian mediator.

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