Doctors believe “unnatural products” caused the mystery illness of Yegor Gaidar after they failed to find any natural cause, an aide to the former Russian prime minister said on Thursday.
The disclosure came as John Reid, the UK home secretary, told parliament that investigators probing the death of the former Russian KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko had found traces of radioactivity at 12 locations. The locations include two British Airways aircraft grounded at Heathrow on Tuesday after they had made several flights to and from Moscow and other European cities.
While no link has been found, the mystery surrounding Mr Litvinenko’s death last Friday and Mr Gaidar’s unexplained illness a day later continued to deepen. Friends of Mr Gaidar and his daughter, Maria, said they believed his sickness, like Mr Litvinenko’s, was also caused by poisoning.
Ms Gaidar said she believed there was a “possible relation” between the two cases.
Valery Natarov, Mr Gaidar’s press spokesman, said his condition was improving and his life was not in danger.
“The doctors could see no natural reason for Mr Gaidar’s condition, and have not found any natural substance known to them,” Mr Natarov said. “They said it was caused by some unnatural products, but they can’t identify those products.”
But he said it was premature to say the illness was definitely poisoning until doctors completed their investigation. Mr Gaidar’s doctors were awaiting more information from colleagues in Dublin, where he fell ill, and expected to give more accurate information early next week.
Separately, Mr Reid told British MPs a third British plane was being tested in Moscow, while a further two Russian aircraft, one operated by Transaero, was expected to be tested for radiation at Heathrow.
Mr Reid insisted levels of radiation found were low, and there was a very low risk to the public or individuals who may have been close to the traces found.
However, British Airways said it had received thousands of calls from around Europe from worried passengers, raising the prospect of further commercial damage to an airline industry severely disrupted by this summer’s terrorist bomb scares at Heathrow.
The majority of traces found have been in locations Mr Litvinenko visited between November 1, the day he allegedly fell ill, and November 23, when he died, apparently from poisoning with radioactive polonium-210.
But investigators have been seeking information from passengers on flights from Moscow as far back as October 25th, when Mr Litvinenko was days away from ingesting the substance that allegedly led to his death.
It has emerged that those who met Mr Litvinenko on and around the day he fell ill included some Russian security guards and representatives of a British security firm. All the indviduals concerned have denied any responsibility for his death.
British police are thought to have been examining closely the passenger lists of the grounded aircraft to see whether there might be witnesses who might provide information about Mr Litvinenko or those who knew him.
Police are hoping further clues may be unearthed by a post-mortem examination expected on Friday after being postponed for health and safety reasons.