Ukraine has said it believed Russia was behind a poisoning attempt on the wife of its military intelligence chief, in an apparent assassination attempt targeting the heart of Kyiv's leadership.

Marianna Budanova was reported ill in a hospital on Tuesday, with sources telling Kyiv Post she was targeted due to her marriage to Kyrylo Budanov.

Here’s everything we know so far…

Who is Marianna Budanova?

Thirty-year-old Budanova is an advisor to Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko and the wife of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) chief, Kyrylo Budanov.

HUR spokesperson Andriy Yusov said Ukrainian investigators are currently working on a “main hypothesis” that Russia was involved in the poisoning and Budanova was a target because “it is simply impossible to reach the commander directly.”


Budanov said in August his wife had been living with him “in his office” and had not left his side since the start of the full-scale invasion for security purposes.

Yusov told Kyiv Post: "According to the Law On Intelligence, the investigation is carried out by the DIU's own security department."


How was she poisoned?

Speaking on Ukrainian radio on Tuesday evening, Lieutenant General Valery Kondratyuk, head of the HUR from 2015−2016 said: “The poisoning occurred with heavy metals.

“During the tests, metals such as arsenic and mercury were found.”

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Budanova’s condition deteriorated over some time, so it is currently believed her food was laced with non-lethal amounts of poison that built up in her system.

What is her current condition?

Budanova is being treated in the hospital but she is not thought to be in a life-threatening condition.

A source in Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence (HUR) told Kyiv Post: “She went to the doctor in time, if a week later, the consequences would be more severe.”

Were other people affected?

According to Kondratyuk, “several” other HUR employees were also affected including “heads of individual areas who are responsible for operations against Russia in the Main Directorate of Intelligence.”


Yusov confirmed to AFP that traces of heavy metals had been found in other employees but declined to say how many.

Their identities and conditions are also not currently known.

What has Russia said?

There’s been no official word from the Kremlin yet but Russian state media channels have reported on the poisoning with undisguised glee.

One talk show even invited Andrey Lugovoy on to discuss events, a man best-known for his role in the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in the UK in 2006.

While they claimed Russia could not have been involved in the poisoning of Budanov, host Olga Skabeeva smirked as she asked Lugovoy to describe how it could have happened “theoretically.”

She added: “Was something slipped into her tea and she drank it?”

Litvinenko died after radioactive poison was slipped into his tea.

In another segment, a guest even suggested Budanov poisoned his own wife: “Why? It gets rid of an un-loved wife and it is an excellent propaganda that can be used in any situation.”


Russia has been accused of multiple poisoning attacks before, although the Kremlin has firmly denied the charges.

In 2018, a former Russian military intelligence officer convicted by Moscow of high treason was poisoned along with his daughter in the United Kingdom.

Assassinations are not unheard of in the Ukraine war. Several pro-Russian officials and supporters of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine have been assassinated since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Ukraine last February.

Officials have said they have foiled “more than 10" assassination attempts against Budanov, a highly respected figure in Ukraine.

Budanov’s influential military intelligence unit is considered responsible for several sabotage attacks against Russia that have taken place behind the front lines.

Moscow has accused the HUR of being behind the October 2022 explosions on the Kerch bridge, which links Russia to the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

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