The wife of Ukraine’s military intelligence chief has been poisoned and is recovering in a hospital, Ukrainian intelligence officials said on Tuesday, an incident that has led to widespread speculation that Russia was stepping up efforts to target Ukraine’s senior leadership.
Andriy Chernyak, an official from the Ukrainian military intelligence agency, said that Marianna Budanova had been poisoned and was receiving treatment. Her husband, Kyrylo Budanov, is the head of the agency known as GUR and is one of the country’s most senior military leaders.
Mr. Chernyak declined to speculate on the perpetrator or the type of poison used and provided no further details, citing the ongoing investigation.
The agency’s spokesman, Andriy Yusov, later issued a statement with a similar account of the incident and said more information would be released as the investigation proceeds.
The suspected poisoning of Ms. Budanova was first reported by the Ukrainian news outlet Babel. It said that doctors found a large amount of heavy metals in Ms. Budanova’s system that are “not used in any way in everyday life and military affairs.”
Mr. Budanov had not fallen ill, the Ukrainian officials said.
The reports that Ms. Budanova had been poisoned sparked immediate suspicion in Ukraine that Russia, which has a long history of using poison as a tool to exact revenge and eliminate perceived enemies, may have been responsible.
Mr. Budanov has often stated that Russia planned to kill him and a spokesman for the intelligence agency, Andriy Yusov, said this summer that there had been at least 10 attempts by Russia to do so.
The circumstances of the poisoning and how Ms. Budanova had been affected were not immediately clear. But Mr. Budanov told Radio Liberty earlier this year that since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in 2022, his wife, a psychologist who worked as an anti-corruption adviser to the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, had essentially moved into her husband’s office.
If Russia was able to poison Ms. Budanov, it would suggest that its agents were operating closer to the inner circles of power in Kyiv than previously thought possible.
Viktor Yahun, the former deputy head of the domestic intelligence agency, the Security Service of Ukraine, has participated in past investigations into poisonings and said more information was needed before it would be possible to assess the Budanova case.
But Mr. Yahun said he would be surprised if Russia had agents in Ukraine who could get close to Ms. Budanova or her husband.
“It just doesn’t have the needed kind of agents on the territory of Ukraine that would be able to poison someone,” he said.
However, Oleksiy Danilov, the head of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said in an interview before the poisoning was announced that Russia was activating sleeper agents and ramping up its efforts to destabilize the government in Kyiv.
“In 2003, Putin set himself the task of destroying our country, and during all this time their tasks have not changed,” he said. “Considering the fact that the Russian Federation does not have the ability to win by military means, it is now using all its agent networks, which, unfortunately, still exist. And now we are observing their maximum activation.”
Russia has targeted senior Ukrainian leaders in the past, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to Ukrainian officials.
Mr. Zelensky has said he is not longer shaken when he learns of new plots on his life.
“The first one is very interesting,” he said in a recent interview with The Sun, the British tabloid, “and after that it is just like Covid.”