Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former adviser is reportedly “in a bad state” after suffering from a rare immune disorder.

According to Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian journalist and political activist, Anatoly Chubais, 67, was recently diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)—a rare disorder that attacks the nervous system.

Sobchak reported that she spoke with Chubais’ wife, who confirmed that her husband’s “state is unstable. He felt bad very suddenly. He began to stop feeling [his] arms and legs.”

She quoted Chubais, who explained his current state: “I was hospitalized in one of the European clinics with a diagnosis of Guillain-Barr syndrome. Condition of moderate severity, stable.”

GBS is a rare neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s nerves, causing muscle weakness and, in some cases, paralysis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people diagnosed with GBS begin to recover within 2-3 weeks of the onset of symptoms, but it can also take as little as a few weeks or as long as a few years. However, a small percentage of those diagnosed experience permanent nerve damage (paralysis) and/or death. Common treatments include plasma exchange and high-dose immunoglobulin therapy.

Reuters reported that a European intelligence agency is investigating the case but has not yet released its findings. Meanwhile, some media and opposition activists speculated that Chubais had been poisoned, which was quickly debunked by an anonymous source. They said Chubais is “still in intensive care” with his wife by his side, and while he can’t walk, he can still talk.

“Remember that Chubais knows a lot about the inner machinery of [Putin’s] regime,” one Twitter user said. “If he started to ‘sing‘ there could be major repercussions.”

 

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Another Twitter user pointed out how “the timing is odd” for the rare syndrome diagnosis of the ex-Russian official.

But again, a close friend of the economist said he “doesn’t think he’s (Chubais) been poisoned,” however, “there are very understandable suspicions.”

In 2020, Putin’s opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was allegedly poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok—an exotic Soviet-era chemical weapon and a favorite concoction of Russian intelligence operatives—which made him fall into a medically induced coma.

The infamous Cold War-era chemical weapons, translated from Russian to “Newcomer,” are so fatal that the decontaminating team must wear protective HAZMAT gear. It was so bad that even the men responsible for creating the nerve agent described its gruesome effects in horror. In 2018, the former Soviet chemist, Vil Mirzayanov, told The Daily Mail:

“It’s for paralyzing people, it causes you convulsions and you can’t breathe and after that, you die, if you get enough of a dose of it. It’s real torture; it’s impossible to imagine. Even in low doses, the pain can go on for weeks. You cannot imagine the horror; it’s so bad.”

The chemist came forward after the news of Sergei Skripal’s (a Russian double agent who defected to Britain) poisoning incident broke out. Skripal and his daughter were out for dinner when they collapsed on a Salisbury bench. Both were in critical condition for several weeks before being released.

A high-profile Russian liberal

Chubais was among the influential Russian economists working under Yegor Gaidar to solidify the transition to capitalism following the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991. He liquidated some of Russia’s most valuable industrial assets to save the economy and keep the post-Soviet country from devolving into civil war.

While many have cast him as “the Kremlin puppet master” for selling off valuable assets, Chubais was viewed as a “hero” in the eyes of his supporters who fought to establish a market in Russia. He continued to call for economic reforms even after Putin rose to power and the death of Gaidar in 2009 and is known as one of the most high-profile liberals associated with the Russian government.

Almost a month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chubais resigned from his post as a Kremlin special envoy on the environment and left the country soon after.

When asked for comment regarding Chubais’ condition, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Moscow “doesn’t have details about what happened” but said it was “sad news” and wished for the former Kremlin adviser in his speedy recovery.