A source close to the Ukrainian negotiation team tells CNN’s senior international correspondent Matthew Chance that there was an incident “a few weeks ago” during Ukraine-Russia talks in Turkey in which Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich along with two Ukrainian negotiators suffered minor skin peeling and sore eyes, the source adding the incident was not regarded as serious.
The Reuters news agency on Monday citing an unidentified US official says that intelligence suggests Abramovich and the Ukrainian peace negotiators were sickened due to an environmental factor, not poisoning. “The intelligence highly suggests this was environmental,” adding: “not poisoning,” the official said to Reuters.
This after the Wall Street Journal and investigative group Bellingcat reported on Monday that Ukrainian peace negotiators and Abramovich suffered from suspected poisoning earlier this month on the sidelines of talks aimed at ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Wall Street Journal and Bellingcat reported 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.
A source close to the Office of Ukraine’s Presidency speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity said of poisoning reports, “This is not true. Just another case of disinformation.”
Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podoliak did not outright deny the incident, saying instead that all Ukraine’s negotiators were working as usual. Podoliak said to CNN: “All members of the negotiation group are working today as usual. There is a lot of speculation, various conspiracy theories and elements of different information games in the media field now. Therefore, I repeat once again — the members of the negotiation group are working today in a regular mode.”
A spokesperson for Abramovich would only say “No comments from us, thank you”, when contacted by CNN on Monday.
Abramovich, who was sanctioned earlier this month by the UK government along with other Russian oligarchs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been acting as an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine, shuttling between Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul, Warsaw and beyond amid a whirlwind of talks aimed at ending the conflict, his spokesman confirmed last month.
On Feb. 28, Abramovich’s spokesperson said “I can confirm that Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since. Considering what is at stake, we would ask for understanding as to why we have not commented on neither the situation as such nor his involvement.”
Abramovich’s role as interlocutor in Russia-Ukraine talks is not in an official capacity. He is not acting as part of a Russian delegation or as a Russian mediator.