Daughter Suspects Poisoning in Death

The daughter of a scientist who died after receiving a letter containing white powder believes that her mother was poisoned, despite official denials, Kommersant reported Thursday.

Anastasia Butrym said her mother, Svetlana Zheludeva, died a "violent death" and called reports that she had suffered from hepatitis "absurd," the newspaper said.

Zheludeva, deputy director of the Shubnikov Institute of Crystallography, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, died of multiple organ failure Saturday.

She fell ill after opening a letter containing white powder that was addressed to her boss, Mikhail Kovalchuk, the brother of billionaire banker Yury Kovalchuk.

Mikhail Kovalchuk also heads the Kurchatov Institute, a former nuclear research center that received $1 billion last year to develop nanotechnology.

Russia's chief public health officer, Gennady Onishchenko, has called the powder harmless, and prosecutors have declined to open a criminal investigation.

The sender of the letter was Sergei Bardakhanov, a Siberian scientist, Kommersant reported. He told the newspaper that he was sending out harmless substance samples and that there had been numerous other recipients.