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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thallium Victims Head Home to L.A.

APU.S. citizen Marina Kovalevskaya being loaded into an ambulance at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday.
LOS ANGELES -- Two U.S. citizens who were hospitalized in Moscow with suspected thallium poisoning flew home to the United States as colleagues and relatives struggled to understand how the two had been exposed to the poisonous chemical element.

Marina Kovalevskaya, 49, and her daughter, Yana, 26, arrived Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport aboard an Aeroflot flight and were taken in wheelchairs past news media to two waiting ambulances.

"We're going to the hospital straight away," Yana Kovalevskaya told reporters. "We just got off a 12-hour flight. Please give us a break."

In Moscow, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said Russian officials were investigating how the women could have come into contact with poison.

Moscow police declined to comment, but Ekho Moskvy radio reported that authorities were checking cafes and restaurants in the area of the hotel where the women stayed.

The Moscow hospital where the women were treated since falling ill Feb. 24 announced Wednesday morning that they were in moderately serious condition, and Moscow's top public health official, Nikolai Filatov, was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying thallium poisoning had been confirmed.

Kovalevskaya and her daughter were born in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States in 1989. They have visited Russia repeatedly since then, relatives and colleagues said.

Relatives said Marina Kovalevskaya left for Moscow on Feb. 14 to attend a friend's party. A colleague, Dr. Arkady Stern, said Marina Kovalevskaya had left Los Angeles "in a good state of health, in good spirits."

After poisoning was suspected, Marina Kovalevskaya was given dialysis and took an antidote and her condition began to improve, Stern said.