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German police launch investigation into possible poisoning of two Russian exiles


Berlin police are investigating the possible poisoning of two Russian exiles who attended a conference in the German capital, a spokesperson told CNN.

“A case has been opened based on the information available,” a Berlin police spokesperson told CNN. “We are aware that poisoning is a possibility, there are other potential causes as well,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson declined to provide further information citing the ongoing investigation.

The German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” first reported on the police investigation, writing that the two Russians attended a conference organized by Russian Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Berlin on April 29-30.

Berlin police did not name the Russian exiles.

The police investigation comes after Russian exile Natalia Arno, chairwoman of the activist group Free Russia Foundation, said publicly this week that she had fallen ill after a trip to Europe.

“I suspect that on my recent trip to Europe I was poisoned, probably by a nerve agent,” she wrote on Facebook.

Arno said she was visiting a European city, “late April or early May”, when she first had “strange symptoms” which she initially attributed to “jet lag, lack of sleep and fatigue in general”.

She then traveled to a second European city where, on returning to her hotel room after a series of meetings, she found the door “slightly open” and detected “the pungent smell of cheap perfume”.

Arno said she later developed “sharp pain and strange symptoms” which led her to return to the United States early.

“During the flight the symptoms became very strange, spreading throughout my body and with pronounced numbness,” she said. “I ended up in the emergency room, my condition was getting worse, but all my tests showed that I was an astronaut and that I could go directly into orbit.”

CNN has reached out to Arno for comment.

Russia has previously been accused of carrying out nerve agent attacks.

In 2020, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, known for publicly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on a flight home from Siberia.

It was confirmed to be poisoning once he was medically evacuated to Germany where he was found with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group in his system.

Novichok is a deadly chemical weapon and was also used in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury in 2018.

Both survived, but many others in the area were exposed to the weapons-grade nerve agent and suffered one death.

The attack has long been linked to suspected Russian military intelligence agents, claiming to be tourists.

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