WASHINGTON, DC – May 16, 2023 – An independent Russian news website today reported on an alleged poisoning incident of John Herbst, the senior director of our Eurasia Center and former US ambassador to Ukraine. The news website Agentstvo, quoting several unnamed sources, reported that Ambassador Herbst was one of at least four people who, over the past two years, have experienced alleged poisonings or break-ins by unknown individuals linked to Russian intelligence services. 

Though Ambassador Herbst has recovered to full health, in April 2021 he grew ill and experienced symptoms that could have been consistent with poisoning, including elevated levels of toxins in his blood. Medical professionals treated Ambassador Herbst effectively at the time but could not definitively conclude there was poisoning involved. 

The Atlantic Council worked with federal law enforcement on this matter, who later also took a blood sample from Ambassador Herbst, and the lab results failed to detect toxic compounds. “The health and safety of our staff is the highest priority,” said Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. “We were in touch with authorities immediately at the time of Ambassador Herbst’s illness, but due to the results of the test we decided not to make the incident public.” 

Ambassador Herbst and the Eurasia Center, working alongside other colleagues at the Atlantic Council, have been among the leading voices in the United States analyzing and responding to Russia’s threats to the United States and Ukraine, including its ongoing war, and advocating for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and freedom.