Ex-Russian Prime Ministers illness still a mystery

Other News Materials 5 December 2006 14:14 (UTC +04:00)

(AP) - Doctors for a former prime minister of Russia have been unable to detect a toxic substance to explain his mysterious illness but still suspect he was poisoned, an aide said Tuesday.

Yegor Gaidar fell ill while attending a conference in Ireland on Nov. 24, a day after ex-KGB agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko died in London after ingesting the radioactive isotope polonium-210, reports Trend.

In a deathbed accusation, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning. The Kremlin has denied the accusations. Spokesman Valery Natarov told The Associated Press that doctors treating Gaidar in Moscow concluded his condition "did not correspond to any disease known to medicine and a toxic factor was possible."

But further identification of any toxic substance may not be possible because the poison would probably have left Gaidar's system by the time he was admitted to a clinic in Moscow, Natarov said. Gaidar was initially treated at an Irish hospital, where doctors noted the "radical changes" in his health but were at a loss to explain them.

Gaidar was discharged from the Moscow clinic on Monday and was feeling "quite well," but would remain under the doctors' supervision, Natarov said.

Gaidar, 50, is unpopular among many Russians who blame the liberal, Western-backed economic policies he pursued as prime minister for the decline in their living standards following the Soviet collapse.

While he is one of the leaders of a liberal political party, liberals have been severely sidelined under Putin and he is not prominent.

Gaidar's illness has added to growing speculation in Moscow over Litvinenko's death and who might be responsible, with the Kremlin and its backers pointing to a plot targeting Putin's government and some critics seeing the hand of hard-liners in the country's ruling elite.

Anatoly Chubais, a top Yeltsin-era government official and now head of the national electricity monopoly, has said he suspects a link between Gaidar's illness, Litvinenko's death and last month's murder of Russian investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.