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Russian investigative journalist dies after mysterious fall from fourth-floor window

The Independent logo The Independent 16/04/2018 Oliver Carroll
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

A prominent regional journalist investigating crime, politics and the war in Syria has died following a fall from a window of his fourth-floor apartment in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth city.

Maxim Borodin, 32, was found by neighbours on the ground outside his apartment on Friday. He died in hospital two days later, without ever regaining consciousness.

Mr Borodin was well-known for delving into Yekaterinburg's criminal underworld. He was among those who broke the story of unreported deaths in the Kremlin's shadow armies fighting in Syria. He also published investigations into Russia’s religious right, and the violent protests around "Matilda," a supposedly blasphemous film depicting a love affair between Tsar Nicholas II and a young ballerina.

As one of only few investigative voices in the region, Mr Borodin often felt the brunt of official and criminal displeasure. Just two weeks ago, he was in intensive care with a major head injury. And in October, he was when he was hit over the head with a metal pipe — that attack he linked to his work covering the Matilda protests.

Friends and colleagues have said they are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his death.

Vyacheslav Bashkov, a local rights activist, told The Independent that Mr Borodin had called him early in the morning on 11 April. The journalist feared a police raid, says Mr Bashkov. A group of people in masks and fatigues had taken up positions in his courtyard, and he assumed he was the target.

“Any journalist engaged in dangerous work as a list of numbers to call should they find themselves in trouble, and Maxim had mine,” says Mr Bashkov. “He thought I would be able to find him a lawyer.” 

A little over an hour later, the journalist called back to say the men had disappeared, and there was no longer need for a lawyer.

Mr Bashkov thought nothing more of it, until two days later, he read about Mr Borodin’s condition.

He immediately set off the police station to give a statement, but there he was not met with an enthusiastic reception. “I left the station with the impression they wanted me out of there as soon as possible,” he said.

The editor of NovyNovy Den, the newspaper for which Mr Borodin worked, said that the journalist had no motive for suicide. It looked like a "tragic accident," said Polina Rumyantseva — but she would “not stay quiet” if there was “a hint of foul play."

Mr Bashkov insisted the most obvious explanation of the death was the journalist’s professional activity.

“We have a chain of events that has led to a very suspicious death,” he told The Independent. “The police should be doing everything in their powers to investigate — but they aren’t.”

Police have said that they are not treating the death as suspicious.

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