Poison Puzzle: Kremlin Critic’s Mysterious Illness


Russian political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., is the latest of several Kremlin antagonists, both at home and abroad, who have died or become violently ill in suspected deliberate poisonings during Vladimir Putin’s 16 years in power, RFE/RL’s Carl Schreck writes:

Most famously, former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Aleksandr Litvinenko died in November 2006 after ingesting the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 in London. British authorities accuse fellow ex-FSB officer and current Russian lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi of delivering the poison over tea at a London hotel, an allegation Lugovoi denies. Ukraine’s former pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko, was left with a disfigured face due to dioxin poisoning during his 2004 presidential campaign against Kremlin ally Viktor Yanukovych. Yushchenko implied his poisoning was a state-sponsored attack and accused Russia of impeding efforts to investigate it. 

That same year, Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was severely sickened after drinking a cup of tea on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to southern Russia during the Beslan school-hostage crisis. Her editor at the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, said at the time that he believed Russian authorities poisoned Politkovskaya but were trying to “incapacitate” her, not kill her. Two years later, she was shot dead in her apartment building in Moscow.


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