Russian journalist dead after unexplained fall

A Russian investigative journalist has died in hospital after falling from the balcony of his fifth-floor flat.

Maksim Borodin, 32, who had written about the deaths of Russian mercenaries in Syria, was discovered by neighbours, injured from his fall, in Yekaterinburg’s Kirov district, according to The New York Times.

He was rushed to hospital, where he died three days later.

According to RFERL, local authorities have dismissed foul play, and are treating the death as a suicide. But a spokesman for Sverdlovsk Oblast police said that no suicide note was discovered at the scene.

Polina Rumyantseva, editor-in-chief of news website Novy Den, where Borodin worked, has also dismissed the possibility that he took his own life.

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Vyacheslav Bashkov, a friend of Borodin’s, has also said that the journalist had contacted him two days before his death, saying that there was “someone with a weapon on his (Borodin’s) balcony, and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing”. Bashkov also said Borodin had asked him to contact a lawyer.

Borodin had recently written about the ‘Wagner Group’,  a Russian mercenary company that operated in Syria last year. Members of the group had reportedly been killed in Deir-es-Zour province while engaging with US forces on 7 February.

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Mike Pompeo, the outgoing head of the CIA,  said last week that “a couple hundred” Russians died in the clash. This contrasts with a Russian confirmation that “several dozen” Russian nationals were killed.

Last month, Borodin wrote that three of those killed had come from the Sverdlovsk region in the Urals, in which Yekaterinburg is the main city.

Much of Russia’s media is state-controlled or vulnerable to state pressure. In Freedom House listings, the country ranks 83rd out of 100 countries in press freedom.

Journalists are also frequently killed in Russia. Four journalists died last year alone, including Dmitry Popkov, who was found dead from gunshot wounds near his home in Minusisnk in May, 2017.

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