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Ukraine spy chief's wife undergoes treatment for suspected poisoning

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The wife of Ukraine's intelligence chief has been diagnosed with heavy metals poisoning and is undergoing treatment in a hospital, a spokesperson for the agency said Tuesday.

Marianna Budanova is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence agency known by its local acronym GUR. Her poisoning was confirmed to The Associated Press by Andriy Yusov, the agency's spokesman.

He did not provide more details about the alleged poisoning, nor did he say who might be behind it.

Marianna Budanova (left) is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov. Reuters Video

Citing unnamed intelligence sources, Ukraine's Babel news site reported on Tuesday said Kyiv had opened an investigation into what it described as "attempted murder."

A source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP the report was accurate, adding that Budanova had been poisoned and was receiving treatment, but declined to give further details.

Babel reported that the substances found in her body "are not used in normal life or military affairs."

"Their presence may indicate a deliberate poisoning attempt," it said.

Reports of assassinations attempts common

Earlier this year, Yusov told Ukrainian media that Budanov survived 10 assassination attempts carried out by the FSB, the Russian state security service.

Russia Ukraine War
Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's military intelligence chief, center, attends a commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2023.  / AP

Previously, Budanov had also told local media that his wife lives with him in his office, which could suggest he was the intended target for the poisoning.

There was no immediate comment from Russia on the claim. Russia media and commentators picked up the Ukrainian reports, with some speculating that it could be part of infighting in Ukraine.

Local media, quoting their sources in GUR, say Budanova is currently hospitalized in Kyiv.

The exact nature of the heavy metals that caused the poisoning has not been made public. However, local media said the metals were not used domestically or in military equipment, so the GUR representatives presume the poisoning was carried out intentionally, possibly through food or drink.

Apart from Budanova, several GUR personnel were also diagnosed with the same poisoning. An official statement with more details is to be released by GUR.

In an interview with the British tabloid The Sun last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that he's survived "no fewer" than five or six assassination attempts since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

"The first one is very interesting, when it is the first time, and after that it is just like Covid," Zelenskyy told the Sun. "First of all, people don't know what to do with it and it's looking very scary. And then after that, it is just intelligence sharing with you detail that one more group came to Ukraine to [attempt] this."

AFP contributed to this report.

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