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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mystery illness hits former Russian PM

Financial Times: Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s former prime minister and the architect of the country’s market reforms, last week suffered a sudden, unexplained and violent illness on a visit to Ireland, a day after Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy, died in London from an apparent radiation poisoning.

Mr Gaidar is now in a stable condition at an undisclosed Moscow hospital, undergoing tests. In a telephone interview with the FT, Mr Gaidar said the doctors had so far been unable to identify the cause of the violent vomiting and bleeding that he suffered during a conference in Ireland.


Anatoly Chubais, his former associate and the head of Russia’s electricity monopoly, said he suspected Mr Gaidar may have been poisoned. However, he strongly ruled out that either Russia’s security services or the Kremlin could have had any involvement. There is no indication of radiation being the cause of his illness.

Mr Gaidar is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s softer critics and his daughter is a leader of an opposition movement. Mr Gaidar, who heads an economic think-tank in Moscow, has close connections with the government and occasionally advises them on economic matters.

“I have suffered sudden problems with my health on November 24 which posed a threat to my life. This threat has not been realised. After a few hours the situation stabilised,” Mr Gaidar said.

Mr Chubais and Mr Gaidar said the doctors could not explain the symptoms he had suffered.

Mr Gaidar said he felt ill after eating a simple breakfast where he was staying near Dublin. He said he could barely move any of his limbs and had to lie down for most of the afternoon.

Ekaterina Genieva, who helped to organise the conference at National University of Ireland, Maynooth, said Mr Gaidar looked pale and unwell when a few hours later he came down to answer questions about his book The Death of the Empire: Lessons for Contemporary Russia. After about 10 minutes, Mr Gaidar said he had to leave the room.

“I rushed after him and found him lying on the floor, unconscious. He was vomiting blood and also bleeding from the nose for about 35 minutes,” Ms Genieva said. Mr Gaidar was taken to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, where he was treated overnight. The following morning, Mr Gaidar had asked to be discharged and, after a visit to the Russian embassy, was put on a flight back to Moscow.

Mr Gaidar declined to comment about whether he believed he had suffered a poisoning attack. The news of his illness comes after a series of mysterious incidents involving Russian public figures over the past month. It emerged as the Kremlin and state-run television continued to suggest the murky world of Russia’s recent émigrés was behind the death of Mr Litvinenko.

Sources in Dublin said they did not suspect anything untoward in Mr Gaidar’s illness.
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