Radioactive test call after Russian premier falls ill

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The Independent Online

The Irish Government should launch emergency radioactivity tests at all the sites visited by former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar, the country's Green Party said today.

The call came amid claims from Russia that Mr Gaidar, who fell ill at a conference outside Dublin on Friday, may have been poisoned.

There are heightened suspicions in the UK about the poisoning of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died a day before Mr Gaidar fell ill.

Another former KGB spy who met Mr Litvinenko on the day he was allegedly poisoned, Andrei Lugovoy, once served as bodyguard to Mr Gaidar.

The former Russian prime minister was rushed to a Dublin hospital after collapsing with nose bleeds and vomiting on Friday at a conference in the National University of Ireland Maynooth in Co Kildare.

In Moscow today, an aide of the gravely ill former Russian premier said doctors treating him believe he was poisoned.

Spokesman Valery Natarov said doctors do not see a natural reason for the poisoning and they have not been able to detect any natural substance known to them in Mr Gaidar's body.

"So obviously we're talking about poisoning (and) it was not natural poisoning."

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Dublin said no one was available to comment on the matter.

Mr Gaidar's daughter Maria Gaidar told Ekho Moskvy radio yesterday: " There was a serious threat to his life. Doctors still can't figure out a reason for what happened."

After he began vomiting during the conference on Friday, he was admitted to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown for treatment.

The former prime minister suffers from diabetes and his condition was initially attributed to the problem.

Mr Gaidar is believed to have told delegates at the two-day conference that he was feeling unwell and took a break.

He later returned to discuss his book, Downfall Of The Empire: Lessons For Contemporary Russia, when he was forced to leave the gathering a second time through illness.

Mr Gaidar was treated in hospital until Sunday when he discharged himself and travelled back to Russia. It is understood he has suffered health problems in the past.

Ciaran Cuffe, Green Party parliamentary spokesman, urged the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to carry out precautionary tests for radioactivity.

"The RPII should show absolutely no hesitation in making sure that people working at, and visiting, the James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown and the NUI Maynooth are free from any health risks," he said.

Management at James Connolly Memorial has notified the Health Service Executive over the possible scare.

Colm Keane, spokesman for NUI, said they were awaiting results of medical tests on Mr Gaidar before any further action would be taken.

He said at this stage there was no reason for radioactivity tests to be carried out.

"What we are doing is waiting. It is our understanding that the results of medical tests will be made available tomorrow and we will then be in a position to act," Mr Keane said.

"At this stage we have no reason to believe there is a risk."

It is understood Mr Gaidar had been ill before he arrived at NUI. The former Russian prime minister collapsed, suffered nose bleeds and vomited when he took ill on Friday evening.

But Mr Keane said Mr Gaidar had complained of being unwell on his flight to Ireland on Thursday night.

Mr Gaidar travelled with about 10 other Russians to the university.

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