posted on Mar, 7 2007 @ 03:08 PM
The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday confirmed that two American women have been hospitalized in Moscow for possible thallium poisoning.
An embassy spokesman identified the women as Marina Kovalevsky and her daughter Yana, but gave no further details. He said they were hoping to return
home soon, but it was not immediately clear when they might be able to do so.
The hospital where they have been treated since falling ill on Feb. 24 said Wednesday morning that they were in moderately serious condition.
Moscow's top public health doctor, Nikolai Filatov, was quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency as saying that thallium poisoning had been
Russian news reports said both women are Soviet-born and emigrated to the United States in 1989, and that they have visited Russia repeatedly since
then. The reports say they arrived in Moscow in mid-February to attend a wedding.
How they may have ingested the poison — a colorless, tasteless substance that can be fatal in doses of as little as one gram — was not clear.
Russian authorities are investigating when and how the women were exposed to the poison, the spokesman said, declining to be named because of embassy
rules that prevent him from being identified.
Moscow police had no comment, but the Ekho Moskvy radio said police were investigating cafes and restaurants in the area of the hotel where the women
had been staying.
There was no indication of whether the women had business or political interests in Russia that could have made them a target for poisoning.
Thallium has the reputation as a poison of choice for assassins.
It was initially suspected in last year's fatal poisoning in London of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was later determined
to have ingested the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210.
For poisoning purposes, thallium would be in a powdery or crystallized state. The poison works by knocking out the body's supply of potassium,
essential for healthy cells, and attacking the nervous system, the stomach and kidneys. Its effects are not immediately noticeable and frequently take
weeks to kick in; symptoms include hair loss and a burning sensation in extremities.
Thallium has been used in rat poison in the past, and it is still used to make lenses, semiconductors, dyes and pigments.
Thallium was used by Saddam Hussein, who poisoned several of his Iraqi opponents. The CIA also reportedly considered using thallium against Fidel