A US official has questioned claims that Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch, and Ukrainian peace negotiators were poisoned earlier in the month.
Sky News confirmed that three men, including Mr Abramovich, experienced symptoms such as red eyes, continuous and painful tearing, peeling skin on their hands, and faces.
According to someone close to the matter, Mr Abramovich lost his vision for several hours.
Bellingcat, an investigative website, stated that the symptoms were consistent with poisoning with chemical arms.
A US official however stated Monday that intelligence strongly suggests the cause to be environmental and not poisoning.
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Bellingcat stated that the toxin’s dosage and type were likely not sufficient to cause serious injury and was “most likely intended to scare”.
It tweeted: “Bellingcat confirms that three of the delegate members to the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine on the night from 3-4 March 2022 suffered symptoms consistent with poisoning by chemical weapons.
Roman Abramovich, a Russian entrepreneur, was one of the victims.
According to reports, Mr Abramovich travelled between Moscow & Kyiv during several rounds of negotiations that took place amid the war.
“Piercing pain inside the eyes”
Red eyes, continuous and painful tearing and peeling skin on the faces and hands were some of the symptoms experienced by the billionaire and at most two other senior members from Ukraine’s team.
Since then, the health of the victims, which include Rustem Umerov (Crimean Tatar politician), has improved and their lives have not been in danger.
Bellingcat provided more information in a series tweets. It stated that “Abramovich and another Russian entrepreneur had participated in the negotiations alongside Ukraine’s MP Rustem Umerov.”
“The negotiation round took place on Ukrainian territory in the afternoon of March 3rd and lasted until 10 o’clock.
The initial symptoms included eye and skin inflammation, “piercing pains in the eyes”, and a nightmarish feeling at home in Kyiv.
Bellingcat – Experts believe symptoms are most likely caused by poisoning with a ‘chemical weapon’
According to the investigative website, it had spoken with experts in chemical weapons and concluded that the symptoms were most likely caused by intentional poisoning with an unknown chemical weapon.
Bellingcat said that microwave radiation was an alternative hypothesis. The symptoms subsided over the next week.
“Experts said that the toxin was not sufficient to cause serious injury or death. They were more likely to scare victims than cause permanent damage.”
A source close to Mr Abramovich didn’t speculate as to who was behind the attack.
According to reports, the three men only ate chocolate and water within the hour before they developed symptoms. A fourth member of their team did not develop symptoms.
A US official stated, however, that intelligence strongly suggests that this was an environmental issue and added: “E.g. not poisoning.”
The official spoke only on condition that he remain anonymous and declined to give more details.
Abramovich is among the ones sanctioned under the UK
Mr. Abramovich stated previously that he was invited by the Ukrainian side to participate in peace negotiations.
Although it is not clear what his exact role was, his spokesperson stated that he had limited influence.
Also, the Kremlin confirmed that Mr. Abramovich was involved in the early stages of peace negotiations with Ukraine.
The UK government sanctioned the billionaire over his alleged connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He denies it.
A superyacht, linked to Mr Abramovich, docked last week in Marmaris in Turkey, one day after another of his yachts arrived at Bodrum.
It wasn’t known if Mr Abramovich was on the yacht, or if it was moved from Turkey to avoid sanctions.