Ukrainian Spy Chief Confirms Wife Poisoned

Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, commander of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR), confirmed to The War Zone Tuesday that his wife, Marianna Budanova, was hospitalized after being poisoned.

“It’s true,” he told us in a short message Tuesday. “But right now the situation is good. We finished therapy and are waiting for results of a check-up.”

“Everything will be fine,” GUR spokesman Andrii Yusov told us. “The doctors say they [treated her] in time.”

The poisoning is being investigated as a case of attempted murder, Yusof said.

According to the Ukrainian Babel media outlet, which first reported on the situation, Budanova was poisoned by an unspecified heavy metal.

“These substances are not used in any way in everyday life and military affairs. Their presence may indicate a purposeful attempt to poison a specific person,” GUR sources told the publication.

In addition to Budanova, several GUR employees were also poisoned, Yusov told us. Everyone has survived and received medical attention, he added. The poison was administered through food, according to the Ukrainian Obozrevatel news outlet.

The poisoning of Budanova, 30, “would represent the most serious targeting of a high-profile Ukrainian leadership figure’s family member since Moscow began its invasion in February last year,” Reuters noted.

Yusov did not provide any details about a motive or suspects.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” he said.

Yusov, however, previously said that Russia had made more than 10 attempts on Kyrylo Budanov’s life and Russia has a history of carrying out chemical and poison attacks on its enemies.

Clearly Budanov is a hated man in Russia due to repeated, often spectacular attacks conducted or assisted by GUR as well as his taunting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and threats of future action. Among the attacks are personal watercraft raids on Crimea, the first attack on the Kerch Bridge, the destruction of an S-400 system in Crimea, attacks inside Russia and uncrewed surface vessel (USV) strikes on Russian Navy vessels. There have been many others reported and untold.

GUR released video of an attack it claimed on Russian landing ships earlier this month, which you can see below.

In April, a Russian court issued an arrest warrant for Budanov in connection with the Oct. 8, 2022 attack on the Kerch Bridge.

On April 21, the Lefortovo Court of Moscow “arrested” Budanov “in absentia for what it called “the terrorist attack” on the bridge, the Russian official TASS news agency reported.

Budanov “was put on the international wanted list,” according to TASS. “The period of arrest is calculated from the moment of extradition to the territory of the Russian Federation or detention on Russian territory.”

“It’s a pleasure for me,” Budanov told us at the time. It “shows that I work in the right way and in the future, I’ll work harder and with higher quality – to show that Moscow’s court was right.”

In an exclusive interview from his hotel room when he visited Washington D.C. in September, Budanov told us that Marianna Budanova has been living in his office since the start of the full-on invasion in February 2022.

Asked what that was like and if the Russians were trying to kill him, Budanov responded by saying: “We’re absolutely fine. She has been living with me since the February invasion. And she’s a police officer herself. She’s actually a professor at our national police academy. She’s teaching legal psychology. It’s not a problem for her as it might have been for someone else.”

Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov met exclusively with The War Zone in his D.C. hotel room. (Howard Altman staff photo)

The two were married in August 2013, according to Babel. Budanova “unsuccessfully ran for the Kyiv City Council as a candidate of Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR party in 2020,” the Kyiv Independent reported. “In 2021, she worked as Klitschko’s advisor on combating corruption in youth politics and sports.”

“During the election campaign, I heard and read a lot of what could be considered insults,” Budanova said in an October 2020 post on the UDAR Facebook page. “But I understand that in many cases it is more like the desperate cry of those who have lost hope. Those who have only dirty words left instead of arguments. They say that everything that does not break us only makes us stronger.”

Given the tight security surrounding the Budanov and GUR personnel, this incident underscores the dangers even closely guarded Ukrainian leaders and their families face.

This is a developing story and we will update it when more details become available.

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.