Roman Abramovich, Ukrainian negotiators poisoned in Kyiv talks - WSJ report

Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiating team were reportedly poisoned during talks in Ukraine in early March.

 Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich walks past the High Court in London on November 16, 2011.  (photo credit: REUTERS/SUZANNE PLUNKETT)
Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich walks past the High Court in London on November 16, 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SUZANNE PLUNKETT)

Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich and three Ukrainian negotiators in the ceasefire talks were allegedly poisoned during a meeting in Kyiv in early March, Netherlands-based open-source intelligence group Bellingcat confirmed a Wall Street Journal report on Monday.

Abramovich and the three members of the Ukrainian delegation, led by chief negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak, reportedly suffered from symptoms of poisoning after the Kyiv meeting held some time in February, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, WSJ reporter Max Colchester reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Sources claimed they were poisoned by Russian hardliners who want to sabotage ceasefire negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, the report stated. A source close to Abramovich, however, said that it was not clear who targeted the oligarch and the Ukrainian delegation.

The condition of the Russian-Israeli oligarch and the Ukrainian negotiating team has since improved and their lives are not in danger, though it was reported Abramovich lost his vision for several hours.

Experts who have looked into the poisoning incident claimed it was hard to determine whether a chemical or biological agent or some sort of electromagnetic radiation, was used, WSJ noted in its report.

Emergency services wearing protective clothing work near the bench where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in Salisbury, Britain, March 13, 2018. (credit: REUTERS)Emergency services wearing protective clothing work near the bench where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in Salisbury, Britain, March 13, 2018. (credit: REUTERS)

In late February, The Jerusalem Post broke the news that Abramovich is attempting to assist in the talks between Russia and Ukraine at the request of Kyiv.

Abramovich has since been hit with a multitude of sanctions as part of a larger international wave, as well as asset freezes and travel bans imposed on Russian oligarchs.

The freeze of assets imposed on Abramovich, namely in the UK, has caused him to seek a quick sale of major properties worldwide, including Chelsea Football Club, the current UEFA Champions League holders. Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003.

The report added that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was not targeted in the poisoning attempt and the Ukrainian president's spokesperson told WSJ he had no information about any suspected poisoning.

A US official said on Monday that intelligence suggests the sickening of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators was due to an environmental factor, not poisoning.

The US official told Reuters: "The intelligence highly suggests this was environmental," adding: "not poisoning." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to elaborate.

Reuters contributed to this report.