Topline

The Kremlin and senior Ukrainian officials have dismissed reports that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian peace negotiators were poisoned during talks in Kyiv in early March, but as all men have since recovered and none were examined by forensics experts in time to detect suspected toxins, the truth may never be known, though there is a dark history of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian state using poison against his enemies.

Key Facts

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Alexei Navalny, the leader of Russia’s opposition party and a fierce Putin critic, survived a murder attempt in 2020 that used a military grade nerve agent Novichok, something then German Chancellor Angela Merkel said was an attempt to “silence” Navalny and raised questions that could only be answered by the Russian government.

In 2018, three people n Salisbury, England—including former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal—were injured and one person died after exposure to Novichok, a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union, i with two of the cases occurring months after the initial incident when the agent was discovered in a disguised perfume bottle.

Then Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack was an assassination attempt “almost certainly approved… at a senior level of the Russian state” and charges have been authorized against three Russian intelligence officers believed to be behind the attack (they cannot be formally charged without being arrested and Russia does not extradite its citizens).

Former Russian spy and Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko was killed in London in 2006 after his tea was spiked with polonium, a radioactive metal, which a UK public inquiry found was most likely approved by Putin himself.

When running against a pro-Russian candidate for Ukraine’s presidency in 2004, pro-EU candidate (and later president) Viktor Yushchenko fell ill and was disfigured as a result of dioxin poisoningsomething he and many others believe was ordered by Moscow, though this has not been proven.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the poisonings or that there is a “trend” in its opponents being poisoned.