The wife of Ukraine’s intelligence chief has been diagnosed with heavy metals poisoning and is undergoing treatment in hospital, it emerged on Tuesday. Meanwhile, deadly winter weather has hit the front lines of the conflict with Russia.
Marianna Budanova is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency known by its local acronym GUR.
Her condition was confirmed to AP by Andriy Yusov, the agency’s spokesman.
He did not provide more details about the alleged poisoning, nor did he say if it was believed to have been intended for Mr Budanov or whether Russia was thought to be behind it.
Earlier this year, he told Ukrainian media that the military intelligence chief had survived 10 assassination attempts carried out by the Russian state or federal security services.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian government, which has long been suspected of poisoning opponents.
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. Several GUR personnel were also diagnosed with the same poisoning, according to the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.
More than 100,000 people were still without power on the Crimean peninsula and some still had no water supply, the Russia-installed governor said on Tuesday, after a winter storm that brought blizzards from Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova across Ukraine and into central Russia.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least five people died in the Odesa region of southern Ukraine, and that engineers were working to restore electricity.
Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, is a key military and logistics hub for Russia as it pursues its war in Ukraine.
The damage caused by the storm affected “the tempo of military operations along the frontline in Ukraine” but has not stopped military activity entirely, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.
In the Vologda region, about 310 miles northeast of Moscow, more than 10 days worth of snow – about 25cm (10in) – fell in one day. The Moscow region was also blanketed with snow, piling drifts up to 25cm deep.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has cast Moscow’s military action in Ukraine as an existential battle against purported attempts by the West to destroy Russia in a ranting speech.
Mr Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades, is expected to declare his intention to seek another six-year term in a presidential election next March.
“We are defending the security and wellbeing of our people, the highest, historical right to be Russia - a strong, independent power, a country-civilisation,” Mr Putin said, accusing the US and its allies of trying to “dismember and plunder” Russia.
“We are now fighting for the freedom of not only Russia, but the whole world,” Mr Putin said.
Associated Press contributed to this report
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