Roman Abramovich 'lost sight after poisoning' during Ukraine peace talks

28 March 2022, 16:47 | Updated: 28 March 2022, 21:32

Abramovich was reportedly poisoned and lost his sight after Kyiv peace talks
Abramovich was reportedly poisoned and lost his sight after Kyiv peace talks. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Russian oligarch and former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was poisoned along with Ukrainian peace negotiators, according to reports.

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Mr Abramovich and two negotiators are said to have suffered symptoms after meeting earlier this month in Kyiv.

These included red eyes, constant and painful tearing and peeling skin on their hands and faces, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to Bellingcat, the meeting took place on the night of March 3, and symptoms were "consistent with poisoning with chemical weapons".

However, an anonymous US official has briefed that "the intelligence highly suggests this was environmental", and added "E.g., not poisoning." The assessment was not elaborated on.

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A source told The Guardian that Mr Abramovich "lost his sight for several hours" and was treated in Turkey.

It is not thought any lives are now in danger.

Ukrainian MP Rustem Umerov is also said to have been in meeting, however it has not been suggested that he suffered symptoms.

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has met with Mr Abramovich, was not affected, the WSJ said.

Bellingcat added the "use of microwave irradiation" could also have been responsible, however this is thought to be less likely than a chemical attack.

The three men "consumed only chocolate and water in the hours before the symptoms appeared", it added, while a fourth person who did the same did not develop symptoms.

Hardliners in Moscow who want to sabotage peace talks are suspected of carrying out the attack.

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Mr Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the UK government, is said to have been travelling between Moscow, Lviv and other negotiating venues as he acts as a go-between in peace talks.

He is understood to have been working to help set up humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of Ukrainians amid the Russian invasion.

He has also been attempting to help bring representatives from other countries to the table for peace talks.

Mr Zelenskyy has said he is ready to talk about Ukrainian neutrality, allaying Russia's anger at its past ambitions of joining the Nato alliance with the US and Western powers, in the hope of ending the war.

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His hand has been somewhat strengthened now Russia has become bogged down in its invasion, having failed in its initial attempt to overthrow his government in Kyiv.

Ukrainian forces have even made limited counter attacks, taking back territory captured by Russia, which continues to pummel cities throughout the country in a bid to capture them.

Irpin, a town near Kyiv that has suffered from bombardments during the fighting, has been retaken, its mayor said on Monday.

Mr Abramovich, who put the Blues up for sale on March 2, was sanctioned by the Government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Vladimir Putin.

The Stamford Bridge club must operate under strict government licence, with Mr Abramovich unable to profit from Chelsea's sale.