Ukraine Spy Chief’s Wife Poisoned: Reports

Kyiv confirms Marianna Budanova hospitalized with heavy metals in bloodstream

2 mins read
Ukraine's Military Intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov (R) and his wife Marianna attend a memorial ceremony [File: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters]

Reports out of Ukraine say that Marianna Budanova, the wife of Ukraine’s intelligence chief spy chief Kyrylo Budanov, has been hospitalized after being poisoned.

“Unfortunately this is true,”  a source in Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence (HUR) told the independent, pro-democracy news organization Kyiv Post. “She went to the doctor on time, if a week later, the consequences would be more severe,” the source said.

The source did not provide further details but according to another Ukrainian news site,  Babel, Budanova, 30, is currently being treated in the hospital for poisoning with heavy metals.

“An investigation is underway into the alleged attempted murder of the Chief of the Defence Intelligence’s (HUR) wife,” the Kyiv Post said.

Marianna Budanova was “hospitalized after a prolonged deterioration in her health,” Babel reported earlier, according to the French news organization AFP. It said Ukrainian investigators’ “main hypothesis” is that Russia was involved in the poisoning attempt, citing Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov.

“The target was the wife,” he added, because “it is simply impossible to reach the commander directly.”

There were no immediate comments from Russian authorities. 

Yusov said mercury and arsenic, highly toxic substances, were used in the attack. “Their presence may indicate a deliberate poisoning attempt,” Babel reported.

“A source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP Babel’s report was accurate, adding that Budanova had been poisoned and was receiving treatment, but declined to give further details.”

It also said “several” other HUR employees were being treated for suspected poisoning. Yusov confirmed to AFP that traces of heavy metals had been found in other employees, but declined to say how many.

Vladimir Putin’s security agents have a long history of carrying out assassinations and assassination attempts with poisons involving heavy metals, at home and abroad.

Budanov would be high on their list. Famous for personally leading a number of daring missions against Russian forces since their invasion of Crimea in 2014, he rose quickly through the ranks and was appointed head of HUR in August 2020.  “More recently, he reportedly convinced 19 Russian soldiers to surrender by talking to them over the radio on a recent mission,” the Kyiv Post said. 

“He’s been the target of no less than 10 Russian assassination attempts,” the paper also said, “one of which, a car explosion, left him seriously injured.”  

In light of that, a Russian plot to murder his wife would hardly amount to an escalation.

“Russia has been trying to kill Ukrainian leaders for some time,” former CIA Russia hand John Sipher noted to SpyTalk. “It may suggest there are Kremlin supporters around the fringes of power in Kyiv.” ( Indeed, President Zalensky and his counterintelligence services have carried out several arrests of suspected Russian agents in the capital.)   

“Ukraine may feel less inhibited about murders in Russia,” Sipher added, “ but I suspect it won’t change much.”

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the editor-in-chief of SpyTalk, a newsletter covering U.S. intelligence, defense and foreign policy, on the Substack platform. Previously, he was the SpyTalk columnist (and national security correspondent) at Newsweek, and before that, the SpyTalk blogger at The Washington Post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog