Russian investigative journalist Maxim Borodin, who wrote about the deaths of mercenaries in Syria, died in a hospital after falling from his fifth-floor flat, and already those closest to him believe a crime occurred.

Neighbors in Yekaterinburg found Borodin badly injured and he was taken to a hospital.  He later died from his injuries.

The BBC reports:

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Local officials said no suicide note was found but the incident was unlikely to be of a criminal nature.

However, a friend revealed Borodin had said his flat had been surrounded by security men a day earlier.

Vyacheslav Bashkov described Borodin as a "principled, honest journalist" and said Borodin had contacted him at five o'clock in the morning on 11 April saying there was "someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing".

Borodin had been looking for a lawyer, he explained, although he later called him back saying he was wrong and that the security men had been taking part in some sort of exercise.

After he was found badly injured at the foot of the building on Thursday, regional authorities said the door of his flat had been locked from the inside, indicating that no-one else had either entered or left the flat.

The chief editor of Novy Den, where Borodin worked, said before he died that she could not rule out a crime, adding there was no reason for him to kill himself.

Harlem Désir of the international monitoring organisation OSCE said the death was "of serious concern" and called for a thorough investigation.

CBS News referenced his recent reports from Syria.

Borodin had reported recently on the death of hundreds of Russian mercenaries killed in U.S. airstrikes in northern Syria, after U.S.-allied forces came under attack in the region.

He had also investigated the bizarre story of a Belorussian sex worker arrested in Thailand who claims to have recorded conversations with a Russian oligarch which prove Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In October last year, a prominent journalist for one of Russia's leading news radio stations was stabbed in the throat by an unknown attacker who burst into her studio. Tatyana Felgenhauer is the deputy editor of Ekho Moskvy, often described as Russia's only independent news radio station.

Borodin's reporting recently in February was about the Russian mercenaries known as the “Wagner Group,” a highly secretive, private Russian military force that is engaged in both the Ukraine and Syria.  Many of those forces were killed in the US strike on Syria.

Ruslan Leviyev, leader of the Conflict Intelligence Team investigating Wagner said, “It is more dangerous for provincial reporters to cover Wagner, a private army sponsored by [Yevgeny] Prigozhin, Putin’s friend; it’s safer for us, journalists based in Moscow, where civil groups and free media can always make noise. In any provincial town journalists can be quietly killed for their reports on the way home in some dark courtyard, without any big coverage.”

Erin Elizabeth at Health Nut News, who has reported on a long list of holistic doctor deaths in the past couple of years, pointed out just how dangerous it is to be a reporter in Russia.

The truth is, being a journalist in Russia is dangerous as most of Russia’s media is controlled by the state and Russia is ranked 83rd out of 100 countries for press freedom by Freedom House.1

  • On the same day that Maxim Borodin was found fatally injured, the editor of an official regional newspaper was assaulted in Yekaterinburg.
  • One of Russia’s best-known investigative reporters, Anna Politkovskaya, was shot dead in a lift at her block of flats in 2006 (she had exposed Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya).
  • In 2008 journalist Mikhail Beketov was left brain-damaged. He had highlighted corruption and fought against the planned destruction of the Khimki forest near Moscow to make way for a road. He died in 2013.
  • Oleg Kashin was severely injured in an assault in Moscow in 2010. He had been reporting on protests against the Khimki forest highway.
  • Well-known Russian radio presenter Tatyana Felgengauer was stabbed in the neck while at work at her radio station, Ekho Mosvky.

Given the fact that Putin is still in charge and his many “friends,” who owe him a lot, exist in very high places, digging into their private business is frowned upon.

Borodin is just the latest journalist to apparently be taken out through suspicious circumstances.

Yulia Latynina, an Ekho Moskvy host, fled Russia in September following a suspected arson attack on her car.

It was only after that attack that the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Russian authorities "to identify and prosecute those responsible for the attacks."

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