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Ukraine says wife of spymaster Budanov was poisoned

By Tom Balmforth and Max Hunder

KYIV (Reuters) - The wife of Ukraine's military spy chief has been poisoned with heavy metals and is undergoing treatment in a hospital, a spokesperson for the agency said on Tuesday.

Marianna Budanova is the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, who heads Ukrainian military intelligence agency GUR, which has been prominently involved in clandestine operations against Russian forces since Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

"Yes, I can confirm the information, unfortunately, it is true," GUR spokesperson Andriy Yusov told Reuters, without clarifying when the poisoning took place.

The BBC's Ukrainian service cited Yusov as saying that several GUR officials had also experienced milder symptoms of poisoning.

Budanov's public profile has risen in Ukraine and the West, where he is portrayed as a behind-the-scenes mastermind of operations to strike back at Russia. In Russian media he is a hate figure.

The 37-year-old has himself been the target of several attempts on his life, including a botched car bombing.

If confirmed as deliberate, the purported poisoning of his wife would represent the most serious targeting of a high-profile Ukrainian leadership figure's family member during the 21-month-long war.

The poisoning was first reported by Ukrainian media outlets.

One publication, Babel, cited an unidentified source who said Budanova had been in hospital, and was finishing a course of treatment for the effects of the poisoning.

Another outlet, Ukrainska Pravda, cited an unidentified source who said the poison was likely administered through food.

Moscow has previously blamed Ukrainian secret services for the murders of a pro-war Russian blogger and a pro-war journalist on Russian soil. Ukraine denies involvement in those deaths.

Separately, Russian media has reported that a court in Moscow had arrested Budanov in absentia in April on terrorism charges.

(Reporting by Max Hunder and Tom Balmforth; editing by Alexandra Hudson and Grant McCool)