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Ukraine says spy chief's wife is being treated for poisoning with heavy metals

In this file photo, 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.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
In this file photo, 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.

KYIV, Ukraine — 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 as the country's war with Russia stretched into its 22nd month.

Marianna Budanova is the wife of Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the military intelligence agency that is known in Ukrainian as GUR for short. Her condition was confirmed to The Associated Press by Andrii Yusov, the agency's spokesman.

Yusov did not provide more details about the alleged poisoning, nor did he say if it was believed to have been intended for Budanov or whether Russia was thought to be behind it. Earlier this year, he told Ukrainian media that military intelligence chief had survived 10 assassination attempts carried out by the Russian state security service, or FSB.

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 on the poisoning claim from the Russian government, which has long been suspected of poisoning opponents. 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, said Budanova was 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, who has been married to Budanov since 2013, several GUR personnel also were diagnosed with the same poisoning, according to local newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.

An official statement with more details was expected to be released by GUR.

Budanova, who holds a degree in psychology and acted as an advisor to Kyiv's mayor before the war, spoke about her experiences being married to Ukraine's spy chief to local media.

In an interview in October 2022 to Ukraine's Elle magazine, Budanova described how on the eve of Russia's full-scale invasion on Feb. 23, her husband informed her it would start the next morning. "We got together and went to his place of work, and since then we have not been home," she said, adding that they did not discuss sending her away somewhere else safer.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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