A former senior aide to Russian president Vladimir Putin is in hospital in Italy after being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Anatoly Chubais, who quit his job as the Kremlin’s climate envoy in March shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, was hospitalised over the weekend in Olbia, a city in Sardinia, while on holiday in the nearby resort of Porto Cervo, they said.
Chubais believes he has contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, they added. “He is stable. There is no risk to his life. He can walk, he can talk. He’s OK.”
But Chubais does not believe he was poisoned, one person close to him said. “These are very understandable suspicions. But he doesn’t think so.”
Chubais did not respond to a request for comment. Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian TV presenter and socialite, wrote on Telegram on Sunday that Chubais’s wife had told her he was in an “unstable condition” after his hands and legs “suddenly started to go numb”.
Sobchak posted what she said was a statement from Chubais himself, who said: “My condition is moderate and stable.”
A central architect of Russia’s post-communist privatisation, Chubais, 69, is the most senior official to resign from the Kremlin since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February.
Chubais did not give a reason for his resignation, though it is widely assumed in Russia he left his post in opposition to the war.
Some fellow members of the Russian elite say his apparent revulsion over the invasion is widespread. Few of them have dared to speak out, however, for fear of reprisals.
Shortly before Chubais’s resignation, Putin said Russia needed to “purify itself” by “distinguishing true patriots from scum and traitors” who made up a “fifth column” of elites who “in their very nature mentally exist over there, and not here, with our people, with Russia”.
The oligarch Oleg Tinkov said in May that the Kremlin forced him to sell his stake in his bank at a knockdown price after he criticised Putin’s “crazy war” and mused: “Maybe now the Kremlin is going to kill me.”
Western governments have accused Russia of poisoning several Kremlin critics with nerve agents in recent years, including former spy Sergei Skripal, who was targeted in the UK, and the opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
After Chubais fell ill on Sunday, specialists in “chemical protection suits” inspected his room and policemen interrogated “all the witnesses”, according to Sobchak’s news outlet on Telegram.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters news of Chubais’s illness was “sad news” and wished him a full recovery, according to Interfax.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. It is often preceded by a viral infection such as Covid-19 and usually begins with tingling and loss of control in the hands and feet.
Though the disease is usually not life-threatening, it can lead to full body paralysis and may require months of treatment.