Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and the two Ukrainian negotiators who are reported to have been poisoned during peace talks at the start of the month may have been targeted with a First World War chemical agent, experts have said.
Speaking in a video interview to the YouTube channel Popular Politics, Bellingcat journalist Christo Gorev, who broke the story alongside the Wall Street Journalclaimed experts who had assessed the victims’ symptoms all agreed the most likely source of the suspected poisoning was chloropicrin.
He said the experts had communicated with the victims and had agreed the incident was not a coincidence, a food poisoning or an allergic reaction.
Mr Gorev said: “They suggested this [chlorpicrin] and other war agents. They agreed on one of them and disagreed on the others.
“They also all agreed that the only way to detect the agent was to bring these people to a laboratory, or to send their blood sample to a laboratory with means to detect war agents.”
Mr Gozev was asked what agent the experts all agreed may have been used, to which he replied: “chlorpicrin – this is the agent giving nearly all of the detected symptoms.
“The only minus of that hypothesis was that chlorpicrin usually emits quite a strong smell, which means it is quite hard to give it without it being noticed.
“But then one of the specialists said there were developments of this agent – without smell.
“Other suggestions even included a low dosage of Novichok, which could have led to these symptoms according to one really knowledgeable expert.”
Novichok is the military-grade agent used in the attempted killing of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in 2018.
The Bellingcat journalist when on to say the substance used to allegedly target Abramovich and the negotiators will remain a “big mystery” as it was be impossible to carry out proper tests at the time of the poisoning due to the trio gradually recovering and flying from one place to another as they sought to find a solution to the crisis. By then the metabolic processes had made it impossible to detect the agent.
He branded the US claiming the symptoms suffered by Abramovich and the negotiators were due to “environmental factors” as “offensive”, while he also said that Ukraine may have denied the poisoning took place amid fears such information may hinder negotiations for a peace deal.
The Kremlin dismissed reports that he had been poisoned, saying they were untrue and part of an “information war”.