Mystery Illness Hits Another High Profile Russian

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2006; 3:02 PM

MOSCOW, Nov. 29 -- Another mysterious illness has struck another prominent Russian. Former prime minister Yegor Gaidar became ill Friday at a conference in Ireland, vomiting and then losing consciousness for three hours, according to his spokesman.

Gaidar's daughter, Maria, said there was a serious threat her father could have died Friday, but that his condition was now improving. He was transferred from Dublin to a Moscow hospital on Sunday.

Doctors have not identified the cause of the illness and are considering the possibility that Gaidar, 50, might have been poisoned, his spokesman said. Gaidar became ill shortly after eating breakfast.

Gaidar fell ill at a university just outside Dublin where he was answering questions on his book, "The Death of the Empire: Lessons for Contemporary Russia." He has been a critic of the policies of President Vladimir Putin, particularly increasing state control over important sectors of the economy.

Former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko died Thursday in London after being exposed to a radioactive substance. That death, which has set off wide speculation about who is responsible, remains under investigation by British police. Litvinenko in a final statement accused Putin of ordering his assassination, a charge the Kremlin dismissed as "absurd."

Valery Natarov, a spokesman for Gaidar, told news agencies here that "nobody has ruled out the poisoning version. It is being considered and doctors are studying all the symptoms and consequences to cure Yegor and diagnose the causes."

A close colleague of Gaidar's, Anatoly Chubais, another prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin and now the head of Russia's state electric company, said Gaidar was "on the verge of death" Friday and it did not look like a natural sickness.

Russian officials have argued that the death of Litvinenko stemmed from an overseas plot by disaffected exiles to discredit Putin, not any order issued by the Kremlin.

Gaidar was one of the architects of the post-Soviet transition to a market economy. He was later reviled by many Russians who blamed him for their impoverishment as favored tycoons enriched themselves from the privatization of state assets.

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