The recent expulsion of Russian diplomats in the wake of the UK nerve agent attack brought to mind a retro Bob Lang cartoon from the Spring just one year ago. Let’s take a look at the mysterious deaths the befell ten of Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics , shall we?
Boris Nemtsov, 2015
In the 1990s, Nemtsov was a political star of post-Soviet Russia’s “young reformers.” He became deputy prime minister and was, for a short period, seen as possible presidential material — but it was Putin who succeeded former president Boris Yeltsin in 2000. Nemtsov publicly supported the choice, but grew increasingly critical when Putin rolled back civil liberties. Nemstov led large street rallies in protest of the 2011 parliamentary election results. He was arrested several times during Kremlin crack downs on opposition rallies. In Feb. 2015, just hours after urging the public to join a march against Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine, Nemtsov was shot four times in the back by an unknown assailant within view of the Kremlin. Putin took “personal control” of the investigation into Nemtsov’s murder— the killer remains in the wind.
Boris Berezovsky, 2013
Business tycoon turned regular fixture in Yeltsin’s inner circle in the late 1990s, Berezovsky is believed to have been instrumental in Putin’s rise to power (including the media campaign that smeared Nemtsov). But Berezovsky was unable to exert the influence under the new president he had hoped. His falling out with Putin led to his self-exile in the UK, where he swore to take Putin down. He also accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, a former intelligence officer and whistleblower poisoned to death in 2009. Berezovsky was found dead inside a locked bathroom at his home in the United Kingdom, a noose around his neck, in what was originally called a suicide. However, the coroner’s office couldn’t confirm the cause of death.
Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, 2009
Markelov was a human rights lawyer known for representing Chechen civilians in human rights cases again the Russian military. He also represented journalists who found themselves in legal trouble after writing articles critical of Putin, including Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was slain in 2006(see below). Markelov was shot by a masked gunman near the Kremlin. Baburova, also a journalist from Novaya Gazeta, was shot as she tried to help him. Russian authorities said a neo-Nazi group was behind the killings, and two members were convicted of their deaths.
Sergei Magnitsky, 2009
Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died while in police custody in November 2009 after allegedly being brutally beaten, then denied medical care. He had been working for a British-American businessman investigating a massive tax fraud case. Magnitsky was allegedly arrested after uncovering evidence suggesting that police officials were behind the fraud. In 2012, Magnitsky was posthumously convicted of tax evasion.
Natalia Estemirova, 2009
Natalya Estemirova was a journalist who investigated abductions and murders that had become commonplace in Chechnya. There, pro-Russian security forces waged a brutal crackdown to weed out Islamic militants responsible for some of the country’s worst terrorist attacks. Like fellow journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Estemirova reported on civilians who often got caught between these two violent forces. Estemirova was kidnapped outside her home, shot several times — including a point-blank shot in the head — and dumped in the nearby woods. To date, nobody has been convicted of her murder.
Anna Politkovskaya, 2006
Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian reporter for Novaya Gazeta authored, “Putin’s Russia,” accusing him of turning the country into a police state. She wrote in great detail about abuse in Chechnya. She was shot at point-blank range in an elevator in her building. Five men were convicted of her murder, but the judge found that it was a contract killing, with $150,000 of the fee paid by a person whose identity was never discovered.
Alexander Litvinenko, 2006
“Alexander Litvinenko was a former KGB agent who died three weeks after drinking a cup of tea” laced with deadly polonium-210 at a London hotel, as Business Insider wrote in 2016. “A British inquiry found that Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were acting on orders that had ‘probably been approved'” by Putin. Russia refused to extradite them, and in 2015 the Russian president granted Lugovoi a medal for “services to the motherland.” After leaving the Russian Federal Security Service, Litvinenko became a vocal critic of the agency, which was run by Putin, and later blamed the security service for orchestrating a series of apartment bombings in Russia in 1999 that left hundreds dead. Russia’s invasion of Chechnya followed later that year — and with it, the rise to power of Putin. Berezovsky was suspected to be complicit in at least part of the plot to bring Putin to the Kremlin, but he later sought to implicate Putin for Litvinenko’s killing. Litvinenko also accused Putin of ordering the murder of Politkovskaya.
Sergei Yushenkov, 2003
The Russian Army colonel was a favorite of reporters in the early 1990s, and had just registered his Liberal Russia movement as a political party when he was gunned down outside his home in Moscow. Yushenkov was gathering evidence he believed proved that the Putin government was behind one of the apartment bombings in 1999.
Yuri Shchekochikhin, 2003
A journalist and author who wrote about crime and corruption in the former Soviet Union. He was investigating the 1999 apartment bombings for Novaya Gazeta when he contracted a mysterious illness in July 2003. He died suddenly, a few days before he was supposed to depart for the United States. His medical documents were deemed classified by Russian authorities.
What Say You SOFREP? Is it deadly to cross Putin? Sound off in the comments