The presumed Russian sting operation was an attempt to wipe out the Ukraine’s intelligence top brass, an ex-Kyiv spymaster said
- Published: 4:30 ET, Nov 29 2023
- Updated: 4:32 ET, Nov 29 2023
THE wife of Ukraine’s spy chief was poisoned by Russia with arsenic and mercury, according to Kyiv’s former intelligence head.
Marianna Budanova, 30, was rushed to the hospital after her food was reportedly spiked with arsenic and mercury in a suspected assassination hit ordered by twisted Putin.
Marianna Budanov reportedly ate a meal poisoned with arsenic and mercury in an alleged assassination attemptCredit: East2West
Her husband is Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, 37, chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence
Lt-Gen Valeriy Kondratyuk confirmed the poisoning and said it was an attempt to wipe out plenty of Ukraine’s intelligence top brass by RussiaCredit: East2West
Several other victims of the suspected Russian sting are senior intelligence officers closely involved in the war against Russia, the service’s ex-head Lt-Gen Valeriy Kondratyuk said.
Marianna suffered a “prolonged deterioration of her health”, but survived and is now recovering, an intelligence source said.
She is the wife of highly-respected Lt-Gen Kyrylo Budanov, 37, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR) and one of Russia’s main targets for elimination in Ukraine.
He was reportedly not poisoned, despite his wife and senior colleagues being struck down by the mercury and arsenic attack.
“I have confidential information that is not yet known,” said former intelligence chief Kondratyuk, 53, who headed GUR from 2015-2016.
“The poisoning… analysis detected metals such as arsenic and mercury,” he revealed.
“It also affected several employees of the [intelligence wing of the] Ministry of Defence.
“And we are not talking about the guards who were, for example, with Budanov’s wife.
“They are high-ranking persons – heads of individual sections, who are responsible specifically for operations regarding Russia in the Main Intelligence Directorate.”
Budanova’s military intelligence wing has been responsible for key attacks on Russian infrastructure – such as targeting Putin’s favourite bridge to Crimea – as well as assassinations of key war officials and propagandists.
Arsenic and mercury can cause symptoms such as vomiting, fever and life-threatening organ failure.
If the hit job succeeded, considerable damage may have been done to Ukrainian operations against Russia.
However, GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov revealed that Marianna is heading for the clear.
“[Her] life is currently out of danger, but medical supervision will continue for some time.”
Regarding other officers, a source said on Tuesday: “They didn’t notice anything about themselves, and now they are also being treated.”
The source also claimed that Marianna and her husband have spent most of their time together and in his office since Russia invaded Ukraine.
“They are together 24/7.”
An urgent investigation is underway into the security breach that led to the poisoning.
Retired spymaster Kondratyuk blamed Russia for the attack and said it was presumably aimed at killing Budanov.
Putin’s secret services had regularly used poisons, he said.
“Let’s say this is the most well-known tool, which is used by the special services of Russia not only against those the Kremlin considers enemies there, but also against those abroad who oppose the Putin regime,” he said.
The Kremlin has not commented on the poisoning in Kyiv.
But Russia has issued three separate arrest warrants for Budanov in the past.
Poisons and chemical or nuclear compounds have been used by Russia against Putin’s enemies like former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko – killed in London – attempted assassinations on opposition leaders Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza.
Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok in his adopted hometown of Salisbury in March 2018.
Putin’s ‘viciously theatrical’ love of poison
POISON is a weapon which may feel more at home in the Middle Ages – yet it appears to be the method of choice for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Marianna Budanov joins a list of names such as opposition leader Alexei Navalny and even ex-Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich who have been taken ill in mysterious circumstances.
Poisonings linked to the Kremlin have left opponents disfigured, in medically induced comas, and worst of all dying slow and painful deaths.
And the method seems to differ every time, with poison-tipped umbrellas, chemical agents daubed on doorknobs, or simply toxins spiked into victims’ food and drinks.
At least eight prominent critics of Putin and his regime are suspected to have been poisoned after being taken ill in mysterious circumstances.
Experts have said Putin’s apparent fetish for such a medieval weapon is for two reasons – its “easy deniability” and its “vicious theatricality”.
Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Foreign Policy: “One of poison’s great virtues for the politically-minded murderer is their capacity to combine easy deniability and vicious theatricality.
“Even while the murderer denies any role, perhaps with a sly wink, the victim dies a horrific and often lengthy death.
“A message in a poison bottle.”
Victims can spend weeks in hospital fighting for their lives and even if they survive they will have been sent an unforgettable message – don’t mess with Putin.
The loved up pair reportedly spend 24/7 with eachother which led Kondratyuk to allege that her husband was the real targetCredit: East2West
Marianna is now said to be stable and recovering from the suspected hit jobCredit: East2West