Roman Abramovich suffers symptoms of suspected poisoning after Russia peace talks

The Russian oligarch was among a peace delegation including Ukrainian diplomats who suffered symptoms including skin peeling from faces

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The Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators have claimed they suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The under-pressure Chelsea FC owner, who is looking for a buyer for the club, was reportedly poisoned weeks ago after attending a peacekeeping mission in the Ukrainian capital.

Mr Abramovich and two senior members of the Ukrainian peace delegation developed symptoms which included red eyes, painful tearing as well as peeling skin on their faces and hands, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

Analysts at the Netherlands-based investigative journalism group Bellingcat confirmed three members of the delegation which went to the talks between Ukraine and Russia on 3 March suffered "symptoms consistent with poisoning with chemical weapons".

File photo dated 24-05-2015 of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
File photo dated 24-05-2015 of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Sources told the PA news agency Mr Abramovich had now recovered and was continuing to try to help with the negotiations.

It is understood the oligarch had been involved in talks about securing humanitarian corridors to allow Ukrainians to leave, and bringing other countries to the negotiating table.

The WSJ reported that it was believed the suspected attack had been orchestrated by hardliners in Russia who wanted to sabotage the talks.

The WSJ said Mr Abramovich met President Volodymyr Zelensky on the trip, but the Ukrainian leader was not affected and his spokesman had no information about the alleged incident.

A spokesman for the businessman previously said he was playing a “limited” role in trying to find a “peaceful resolution” between the two countries.

Bellingcat tweeted: "Abramovich, along with another Russian entrepreneur, had taken part in the negotiations alongside Ukraine’s MP Rustem Umerov. The negotiation round on the afternoon of 3 March took place on Ukrainian territory, and lasted until about 10 pm."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via videolink.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via videolink.

Roman Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on 2 March, amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian-Israeli billionaire was then sanctioned by the Government on 10 March.

The Blues must operate under strict Government licence, with Abramovich unable to profit from Chelsea’s sale.

Downing Street must approve another new licence to authorise Chelsea’s eventual sale, with the money either frozen or distributed to charitable funds to aid victims of the war in Ukraine.

Abramovich has pledged to write off Chelsea’s £1.5bn debt and the bidding frenzy for the club could see the eventual deal hit £3bn.

This comes as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signalled he is prepared to offer a series of concessions to Russia to end the fighting.

Ukraine could declare neutrality and offer guarantees about its non-nuclear status as part of a peace deal, Mr Zelenskyy suggested, but he stressed the desire to ensure the country’s “territorial integrity” – stopping the Kremlin from carving it up.

Downing Street said the UK would support Ukraine’s negotiating position but Boris Johnson firmly believes that Mr Putin “must fail”.

Mr Johnson and Mr Zelenskyy “shared information about the peace talks” in a phone call on Monday.

The two leaders also “discussed strengthening sanctions against Russia” and defence co-operation between the UK and Ukraine, Mr Zelenskyy said.