World

Ukraine spy chief’s wife treated for suspected poisoning with heavy metals

Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

The wife of Ukraine’s intelligence chief has been diagnosed with heavy metals poisoning and is undergoing treatment in hospital, a spokesperson for the agency said as the country’s war with Russia stretched into its 22nd month.

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 The Associated Press by Andrii Yusov, the agency’s spokesman.

Mr Yusov 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 security service, or FSB.

Previously, Mr 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.

Russian 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 Ms Budanova was in hospital 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 Ms Budanova, who has been married to Mr Budanov since 2013, several GUR personnel were also diagnosed with the same poisoning, according to local newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.

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

Ms Budanova, who holds a degree in psychology and acted as an adviser 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, Ms Budanova described how on the eve of Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 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.

“Personally, I was not going to go anywhere away from my family,” she told the magazine.