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Elena Kostyuchenko, a Russian journalist working for the Russian independent media Novaya Gazeta, says she was poisoned in Germany after covering Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Insider, an independent Russian media outlet, published an investigation on Aug. 15 on Kostyuchenko's alleged poisoning. Later, another independent Russian media outlet, Meduza, published her account of her experience in Ukraine and Germany on Aug. 15.
In Spring 2022, as she was planning to travel to cover the still on-going fight for Mariupol, she got word from colleagues that Chechen soldiers fighting for the Russian army planned to kill her. As a result, she left Ukraine and eventually ended up in Germany, where she began working for Meduza.
After a meeting with some acquaintances over lunch in Munich, Kostyuchenko came down with an unexplained illness that she originally wrote off as Covid. As the symptoms got worse, and doctors ruled out other explanations, poisoning remained the only plausible explanation, a conclusion that the doctors agreed on but could not conclusively prove.
Along with Kostyuchenko’s story, The Insider's investigation also discusses the cases of two other journalists and activists who had suffered from what appeared to be poisoning abroad since 2022.
Russia has been implicated in numerous poisonings of journalists or other dissidents abroad, such as the attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018 and perhaps most famously, on Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in 2020. Both cases involved the usage of the nerve agent Novichok.
Reports on the poisonings of Kostyuchenko and the others detailed in Meduza’s investigation showed some results consistent with the usage of Novichok, but not enough to be conclusive.
In her account, Kostyuchenko herself stresses that she wanted to tell the story of her poisoning as a warning to others to be more careful, because “we will never be safe until the political regime changes in Russia.”