Frequent Kremlin critic and prominent human rights lawyer Karinna Moskalenko was hospitalized after inhaling fumes released by several mercury pellets discovered in her car in Strasbourg. Moskalenko represents the family of slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and her suspected mercury poisoning happened just a day before a scheduled preliminary hearing on Wednesday in Moscow on Politkovskaya’s murder.
Moskalenko also counts dissident politician and chess champion Garry Kasparov and imprisoned Yukos billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky as clients. (Khodorkovsky, incidentally, was denied parole in August and recently ordered to spend 12 days of solitary confinement in a Siberian prison for giving this interview to Esquire.)
When we first read the news Tuesday night on the BBC’s Web site, we reached out to Khodorkovsky’s American lawyer, Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff, to check on Moskalenko’s condition.
Amsterdam declined to speak with us over the phone–read this excellent profile of him in the August 2008 issue of Portfolio and you’ll understand why–but news reports say the mercury was of a non-lethal dosage and that Moskalenko and her family are being treated for nausea and headaches.
“People do not put mercury in your car to improve your health,” Moskalenko told a Russian radio station. “I am very concerned because there were children in that car.”
Moskalenko, who lives in Strasbourg where she frequently has cases before the European Court of Human Rights, was not able to attend Wednesday’s hearing for Politkovskaya’s accused killers in a Moscow military court.
Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. Two Chechen brothers and a former police officer are being charged with her murder. But Moskalenko and other Politkovskaya supporters have said that the real perpetrators are not in custody, while others claim the charges are rigged.