Putin adviser who quit over Ukraine taken to intensive care
The highest-ranking Kremlin official to resign in protest over President Putin’s war was rushed to intensive care, prompting intelligence officers to investigate whether he was poisoned.
Anatoly Chubais, 67, told friends that he believed he was suffering from a rare immune disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. “He thinks it’s a disease,” a source close to Chubais told Reuters. “Doctors say they found it in time.”
At least one European intelligence agency was examining the circumstances of Chubais falling ill, according to reports, amid speculation that he may have been the latest dissenter to fall victim to Putin’s campaign of extrajudicial poisonings, including that of Sergei Skripal, the double agent who was attacked with his daughter in Salisbury in March, 2018.
Chubais was on holiday on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda when he started to have difficulty moving his hands and feet and attended the A&E department of a local hospital. His wife, Avdotya Smirnova, was at his bedside.
Specialists wearing hazmat suits had been sent to examine the room where Chubais had fallen ill. Since leaving Russia he had been living mainly in Italy, dividing his time between Sardinia and Tuscany, where he owns property, La Repubblica reported.
Chubais was the Kremlin kingmaker who plucked Putin from obscurity in 1996 and paved his way to the presidency. He had been one of the architects of Russia’s early 1990s free market reform programme, holding top political and business jobs under Putin and his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. When he left the Kremlin earlier this year, he had held the role of Putin’s special envoy for climate change.
Since the beginning of the war, the Kremlin has rounded on critics of the invasion, including those within the political elite. On March 16, Putin singled out oligarchs he deemed overly keen on western values, speaking of the need to “cleanse” the nation of “traitors and scum”.
Chubais, who had maintained good relations with both the Kremlin and western officials, made no secret of his opposition to the war, posting a picture of the slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who denounced Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, on his personal Facebook page.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said yesterday that the news of Chubais’s illness was “sad” and wished him a speedy recovery.
Other Russian political and business figures, including the sanctioned metals magnate Oleg Deripaska and former deputy premier Arkady Dvorkovich have appealed for an end to the war, though none except Chubais are known to have resigned from government.
Perhaps the most prominent dissenter was Boris Bondarev, head of the Russian mission at the United Nations in Geneva, who resigned in May, lamenting the “bloody, witless and absolutely needless” war in Ukraine.
He said he was quitting in protest over the “lies and unprofessionalism” in the country’s foreign ministry. He said the war launched by Putin was a “crime against the Ukrainian people” that would ruin the Russian economy as well as “all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society”.
“For 20 years of my diplomatic career I have seen different runs of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year,” he said.