The Russia connectionMystery Over Russian’s Suspected Poisoning Deepens with New FBI Records

By Mike Eckel and Carl Schreck

Published 30 September 2020

RFE/RL Exclusive: In hundreds of FBI documents obtained exclusively by RFE/RL, new clues to the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza — and new details about how serious the U.S. government considered his case.

The U.S. government is seeking to delay the release of more than 1,000 pages of documents related to the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, part of a multiyear struggle involving a case that has reached the top levels of the White House, the U.S. intelligence community, and Congress.

Hundreds of other FBI and Justice Department documents obtained exclusively by RFE/RL reveal new details about the U.S. investigation into what Kara-Murza believes were two separate, deliberate poisonings by Russian security services.

The materials show, among other things, that the FBI sought evidence that Kara-Murza was poisoned and turned to the expertise of a leading U.S. government weapons research laboratory for help in that search. They also suggest that the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, was directly involved in the matter.

The documents, however, do not provide definitive proof that Kara-Murza was deliberately poisoned, and the Russian activist believes the answer may lie in the cache of official records whose release U.S. authorities are now seeking to postpone.

The first batch of files was released last week in response to a lawsuit Kara-Murza brought in federal court in an effort to learn exactly what U.S. law enforcement authorities knew about his illnesses, which occurred in 2015 and 2017, and what they did in response.

The disclosures come amid heightened international concern that Russian security agencies are growing bolder in the use of poisons or sophisticated toxins to target dissidents or former spies. That includes the case of Aleksei Navalny, the Kremlin opponent who German officials say was poisoned last month with a substance from the Novichok group of nerve agents, which were first developed by the Soviet Union.

After providing the first set of documents totaling around 400 pages, the Justice Department then said it had discovered an additional 1,100 pages including “lab results and blood work,” but that it would be unable to meet an October 15 deadline to release them to Kara-Murza.

His lawyer, Stephen Rademaker, told RFE/RL that they intend to challenge the request for a delay in releasing the additional 1,100 pages.

“It is hard to comprehend how Vladimir’s test results could have been misplaced like this, particularly considering the indications in the documents that were released to us that FBI Director Wray has been personally involved in dealing with this matter,” Rademaker said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a query about the status of the document release.