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Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian officials 'suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning'

The Russian oligarch and two Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms including red eyes and peeling skin on their faces and hands.

LAST UPDATE | 28 Mar 2022

CHELSEA OWNER ROMAN Abramovich and at least two Ukrainian peace negotiators are reported to have suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning following a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month.

A report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and confirmed by investigative journalism group Bellingcat, said Russian oligarch Abramovich – who had been reported to have been involved in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine – and the two Ukrainian officials had suffered symptoms including red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their faces and hands.

Attributing their report to sources familiar with the matter, the WSJ said the incident was being linked to hardliners in Moscow who wanted to sabotage talks.

WSJ said Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators, who include Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, have since improved and their lives are not in danger. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has met with Abramovich, was not affected.

On Sunday, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine had received offers of support from Russian businessmen and that Kyiv would give refuge to anyone who backed his country’s fight against Moscow.

During an interview with Russian journalists, Zelenskyy said he had received signals of support from Russian businessmen, including Roman Abramovich.

The Ukrainian leader said the businessmen had told him they wanted to “do something” and “help somehow” to de-escalate Russia’s now month-long military assault on Ukraine.

“Some said that they were ready to help rebuild the country after the war,” Zelenskyy said during the interview conducted by journalists from several independent Russian media.

Western countries, including the United States and the EU, have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, including placing oligarchs and other individuals close to Putin on sanctions lists.

Abramovich was among the individuals listed under new sanctions adopted by the European Union last week.

Zelenskyy said that some Russian business had offered support in the hope of being excluded from penalties in return.

He also said that Ukraine was prepared to help Russian businessmen who aided Kyiv’s fight against Russian troops.

“We are ready to provide them with security and then provide work and development of their business,” Zelenskyy said.

Abramovich, 55, who bought the Chelsea football club in 2003, has denied claims that he bought it on Putin’s orders, to expand Russia’s influence abroad in the early 2000s.

With reporting from © AFP 2022

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