Vladimir Putin and Rustem Umerov had symptoms that were similar to poisoning earlier this month, says a source.
There are rumors that the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and other members of an informal Russian-Ukrainian negotiating group were poisoned during informal talks earlier this month. The talks, which are set to start in Istanbul on Tuesday, have been overshadowed by these rumors.
People were afraid the Kremlin wasn't going to give up even though its troops have been fighting hard since the invasion started. The accusations came out on the eve of the first face-to-face peace talks in weeks.
In the Wall Street Journal and the investigative journalism site Bellingcat, people said that someone had poisoned someone. A US official told Reuters on Monday that there was no evidence that someone had been poisoned.
During informal talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, in early March, Abramovich, the billionaire former owner of Chelsea, began to feel sick, a source told the Guardian.
They say Rustem Umerov was also involved in the negotiations. The men then left Ukraine and flew to Istanbul for medical treatment. This is what the source says:
His first trip to Kyiv. There were several hours when Roman couldn't see well enough to get around on his own. In Turkey, they were taken to a clinic with Rustem, the source said.
In the past, Bellingcat made a statement saying that it thought the three men had been poisoned.
"Bellingcat can say that three members of the delegation who were at the peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on the night of March 3 to March 4, 2022, had symptoms that were likely caused by chemical weapons," it said.
A tweet from the news outlet said that one of the victims was Roman Abramovich, a Russian businessman.
Bellingcat said that the three men had eye and skin inflammation, as well as piercing pain in their eyes. They also said that they quickly recovered. It was the next day that they left Kyiv and drove to Poland. They then flew to Istanbul from there.
"The three men who had the symptoms ate only chocolate and water in the hours before they started to get sick." There was also a fourth member of the team who ate these, but he didn't get sick. Bellingcat said one of its investigators had been asked to comment on the incident by chemical weapons experts.
On the basis of both "remote and on-site examinations," experts say that the symptoms are most likely the result of... poisoning with an unknown chemical weapon.
There were tests done to see if the poisoning had been strong enough to kill, but they didn't show if the poisoning was strong enough to kill.
Allies of the men who were poisoned are said to have blamed hardliners in Moscow, who they said "wanted to sabotage talks to end the war."
Much of the story is still not clear.
Umerov wrote on Facebook that he was "fine," and he told people not to believe "unverified information." A US official added to the doubt about the story that was already there. The official told Reuters that "the intelligence is very strong that this was a natural event." "Eg, not poisoning."
People who work for Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, say there's a lot of speculation at the moment, so they advise people to only trust official news.
For having "clear connections" to Vladimir Putin, Abramovich was banned by Britain earlier this month. However, he was able to avoid US sanctions because Zelenskiy asked Washington to hold off because of the role Abramovich was playing in peace talks.
Ukrainian film producer Alexander Rodnyansky first brought Abramovich into the peace talks as an unofficial way for Vladimir Putin to get in touch with him. Rodnyansky's son, also named Alexander, is an economic adviser to Zelenskiy and is also named Alexander.
"My father was the first person to get Roman Abramovich to join the talks." Rodnyansky told the Guardian that they were looking for another way to get their message across to the top.
Abramovich: "What can he do?" He might be able to meet Vladimir Putin and try to tell him something. If you live in Russia, there is a lot that Roman can't say because of the way things are there. At the same time, we should try to give any chance for peace a chance.
A source in Moscow said that Abramovich had met with both Zelenskiy and Putin in person over the past month. On Monday, he flew to Istanbul to be part of the talks there.
Abramovich's negotiations have been going on at the same time as official talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, which have been taking place in Belarus and on the web.
The second round of talks in Belarus took place around the same time as the date that Abramovich is said to have visited Kyiv. One of the members of the official Ukrainian team, Denys Kireev, was killed two days later when someone shot him. Early reports said that he had been arrested for treason and killed when he tried to run away. A few days after his death, the Ukraine's military intelligence service said he was a hero who had been killed while doing his job well. It isn't clear if his death was caused by his work on the negotiating team or something else.
A new round of peace talks was set to start in Istanbul on Tuesday.
It was Friday, and Ukraine's chief negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that he thought the Russians were becoming more serious about the talks over time.
"We can see how they're behaving." Why? That's because negotiating with the goal of seizing Kyiv tomorrow is different from fighting for 30 days and not even getting close to the goal, which is why it is different. There is some kind of thought process going on there now, he told me.
He didn't say anything about Abramovich's role in the negotiations.