German authorities have launched an investigation into a possible poisoning attack against a Russian dissident couple living in Berlin, the BBC is reporting.
Doctors reportedly detected high levels of mercury in the blood of Viktor and Marina Kalashnikov, a former KGB colonel and historian respectively. Now in their 50s, the couple has been known to be openly critical of the Kremlin.
"An investigation has been opened. It is being carried out by a department dealing with politically motivated crimes," a spokesman for the public prosecutors' office in the German capital is quoted by the Herald Sun as saying.
The Kalashnikovs, who have worked as freelance journalists and commentators since the last 1990s, sought medical attention after complaining of a series of unusual health problems, such as bouts of restlessness, blinding headaches and spinal pain, in addition to weight loss. Tests conducted at Berlin's Charite hospital reportedly revealed a staggering 53.7 micrograms of mercury per liter in Viktor's blood, and 56 in Marina's, well above the standard level of about one to three micrograms per liter.
"Moscow poisoned us," Viktor reportedly told Focus, a German magazine. Some commentators drew parallels to the case of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was reportedly murdered by radioactive poisoning in London in 2006.