Ukrainian government officials warned negotiators not to touch or eat anything during negotiations with Russia after reports that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and others may have been poisoned during a previous round of talks, The Washington Post reports.
“I advise anyone going for negotiations with Russia not to eat or drink anything, preferably avoid touching surfaces,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
The statement came after Abramovich, who attended peace talks but is not part of the official delegations, and members of Ukraine’s negotiation delegation fell ill in early March. An associate of the oligarch said that he suspects he may have been poisoned.
The associate said he believes a “third party” may have carried out the poisoning and does not believe it was necessarily sanctioned by the Kremlin.
The Wall Street Journal and Bellingcat first reported that Abramovich and two Ukrainian negotiators suffered “red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their faces and hands” following a meeting on March 3.
Abramovich’s camp previously confirmed he was contacted by Ukraine to help with peace talks with Russia. Ukraine has reportedly urged the United States not to sanction Abramovich.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia was involved with any alleged poisoning, suggesting such claims were “part of the disinformation war.”
“These reports are definitely not true,” he said.
Peskov said that “Abramovich is involved in ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides. He is not an official member of the delegation.”
He added that the oligarch attended “from our side.”
Peace talks advance:
Russia announced on Tuesday it would sharply “reduce military activity” near Kyiv and in northern Ukraine.
Russia also said it was ready to schedule a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky once a draft peace plan is ready.
The two sides proposed a 15-year negotiating process of the status of Crimea and potential talks about the status of the Donbas separatist regions.
Ukraine is also pushing for security guarantees from third-party countries like the United States that would effectively provide them similar protections as NATO.