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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FBI Probes Moscow Thallium Case

LOS ANGELES -- U.S. federal authorities said late last week that they had opened a criminal investigation into the poisoning in Russia earlier this month of a Los Angeles physician and her adult daughter.

The FBI will be looking at whether Marina Kovalevsky, 49, an internist, and her daughter Yana, 26, were intentionally poisoned with the toxic metal thallium.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the investigation would be conducted by agents from Los Angeles, the bureau's legal attache in Moscow and officials from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department said.

Thallium -- used as a catalyst in certain metal alloys, optical lenses, jewelry and semiconductors as well as rat poison and insecticide -- was initially suspected in the death of a former Russian spy in London last year.

The Kovalevskys traveled to Moscow in mid-February to attend the wedding of a friend's niece but were hospitalized Feb. 24 after reporting pain and numbness, relatives said. The women had been staying at a five-star hotel near Red Square and planned to be home in time for a full day of work Feb. 26.

Tests confirmed Friday that the two women had been poisoned with thallium, but the women believe it was accidental, their lawyer and the hospital said.

Both were in fair condition Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and were expected to remain in the hospital over the weekend, according to a hospital statement. They were unable to walk without assistance, but should be fully recovered in about a month, said their lawyer, Frank Capwell.

Capwell said the women had no reason to believe the poisoning was intentional.

The women, both U.S. citizens who have lived here more than 15 years, arrived Wednesday afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport from Moscow to a throng of waiting television cameras and reporters.

Russian media said Kovalevsky and her daughter had emigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union in the 1980s but frequently visited Russia.

The United States has in recent months tackled Russia over a series of human rights issues, from the deaths of journalists to complaints over a new law for foreign nongovernmental organizations.

Washington has been pressing Moscow to solve the murder of U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes Magazine who was shot in the Russian capital more than two years ago.

LAT, Reuters, AP