Russian journalist who wrote about mercenaries’ deaths in Syria is found dead

Maxim BorodinA Russian investigative journalist, who wrote a series of articles about Russian soldiers-for-hire in Syria, has died after falling from the balcony of his apartment in western Siberia. Some of his colleagues say they suspect foul play. Maxim Borodin wrote for Novy Den (New Day) an investigative online magazine. In the past few weeks, Novy Den published a series of probing articles by Borodin about the activities of Russian mercenaries working for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Borodin was one of just a handful of Russian journalists who reported on claims that more than 200 Russian mercenaries were killed in Syria on February 7.

According to the United States government, the Russians were part of a 500-strong Syrian government force that crossed the Euphrates River and entered Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria’s northeastern Deir al-Zour region. American-supported Kurdish forces in the area, which include embedded US troops, responded with artillery fire, while US military aircraft also launched strikes against the Syrian government forces. The latter withdrew across the Euphrates after suffering heavy losses, including at least 200 Russian troops. The incident was subsequently confirmed by the Kremlin, which said that the Russians were contractors and were not members of the Russian armed forces. Borodin wrote that the Russian mercenaries were employed by the Wagner Group, an arms-for-hire company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a billionaire with close ties to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin’s name is included in the most recent list of Russian oligarchs that are subject to economic sanctions imposed by the US government.

Last Thursday, just weeks after writing his exposé about the Wagner Group, Borodin was found by neighbors at the foot of the building that houses his apartment in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city. The journalist was taken to a local hospital, where he later died from his injuries. The American news network CNN said it spoke to Valery Gorelykh, a local Russian Interior Ministry official, who said that no foul play was suspected in Borodin’s death. The door of his apartment had been locked from the inside and there were no signs of struggle, said Gorelykh. He went on to say that the most likely explanation for Borodin’s death was that he slipped and fell off the balcony while smoking a cigarette.

But some of Borodin’s colleagues and friends question the verdict of accidental death. Vyacheslav Bashkov, a close friend of the deceased, said Borodin had called him in a frantic state in the early morning hours of April 11. He said his apartment had been surrounded by armed security personnel wearing ski masks, one of whom had climbed on his balcony and appeared to be waiting for a court order so that he could search Borodin’s apartment. But an hour later, Borodin called Bashkov again, this time to let him know that the armed men had been conducting a training exercise and that they never entered his apartment after all. Another colleague of Borodin, Novy Den editor-in-chief Polina Rumyantseva, said she did not believe Borodin had committed suicide.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 17 April 2018 | Permalink

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Russia charges engineer with spying for foreign agency

The R-30 BulavaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russian authorities have charged an engineer working at a top-secret military facility in the Urals with espionage, accusing him of passing classified information about Russian ballistic missiles to agents of a foreign government. According to the InterFax news agency, which has strong links with the Russian government, the engineer had disclosed “secret data [and] state secrets concerning the area of strategic defense systems “. The Moscow-based news agency quoted an unnamed “Russian law enforcement official” who said that the accused spy worked at a critical research and development position inside a “restricted government facility that develops missile technology”. The source told InterFax that the alleged spy was working on the Russian R-30 Bulava ballistic missile, which is said to be in its final development stage. The R-30 Bulava (the Russian word for “mace”) is the name for Moscow’s latest-generation submarine-based ballistic missile technology. It is widely considered to be one of the future cornerstones of Russia’s nuclear weapons capability, and is thought to be the most expensive weapons project currently being developed in the country. The missile was approved for production last year, and is expected to come to service this coming October, when it will begin to replace Russia’s Soviet-era stock of submarine-launched nuclear missiles. The program is strongly linked to the country’s Borei-class ballistic-missile-capable nuclear submarines, which are expected to be able to launch the R-30 Bulava while underwater and in motion. Read more of this post

Did Russian secret services avert military coup in Sverdlovsk?

Vladimir Kvachkov

V.V. Kvachkov

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Russian intelligence services arrested members of an illegal paramilitary unit that planned an armed insurrection in one of central Russia’s biggest cities. According to reports from Yekaterinburg, the administrative capital Russia’s Sverdlovsk province, leaders of the alleged paramilitary unit hoped that their action would lead to a nationwide rebellion, eventually resulting in a military coup in Moscow. Several people were arrested by security forces of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service a few days before August 2, the day when the alleged insurrection was to have taken place. Sources from the FSB say that the plotters were working on a four-step plan of action. First, they planned to attack the FSB’s Sverdlovsk district command center, the Russian Ministry of the Interior’s regional headquarters, as well as the offices of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, and capture or kill all senior staff. They would then blow up key power stations around Yekaterinburg, effectively shutting down the city’s electricity network. Taking advantage of the widespread confusion among the regional security apparatus and the population, they would move to seize local weapons depots. The alleged insurrection plan called for distributing the seized weapons among members of Yekaterinburg’s urban poor, in an attempt to widen the base of the rebellion. The plan’s final step viewed a widening insurrection in Yekaterinburg as a spark that would trigger similar Libya-style uprisings across Russia, resulting in a coup that would depose the current government in Moscow and replace it with a transitional military regime. According to news reports, the FSB arrested several leaders of the alleged insurrection, including former members of the Russian military, who are said to be linked with the People’s Militia, an insurrectionist group composed by former military and intelligence officials, led by Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov. Kvachkov, a retired Colonel in the Russian Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU), was arrested in December of 2010 on charges of planning “an armed rebellion for the forceful seizure of power in Russia”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #484

  • Analysis: CIA may face reduced role in Pakistan after murder row. People familiar with the views of the Pakistani government say that, as part of the deal for the freeing of CIA operative Raymond Davis, the CIA agreed to give Pakistan more credit for its role in counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, to cut back on US spying in Pakistan and to keep Pakistani authorities better informed of CIA activities.
  • Lebanese Army dismantles Israeli spying device. The Lebanese Army has dismantled an Israeli electronic spy device after receiving a tip-off from members of Hezbollah, according to reports from south Lebanon. This is not the first such reported incident. More pictures of the device are posted here.
  • Exhibition commemorates Soviet spy legend. An exhibition, dedicated to the 100th birth anniversary of legendary Soviet intelligence agent Nikolai Kuznetsov has opened in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Kuznetsov uncovered German plans to launch a massive tank attack in Ukraine’s Kursk region, as well as an operation to assassinate Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in Tehran in 1943.

Sex video prompts British diplomat’s resignation

Hudson video

Hudson video

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The British Foreign Office has confirmed that one of its officials stationed in Russia has resigned following the emergence of video footage which shows him cavorting with two prostitutes. British diplomatic sources have identified that James Hudson, a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, is indeed the man shown having sex with prostitutes in a black-and-white surveillance film, which was probably shot in a brothel in the Russian city of Ekaterinberg. Mr. Hudson was Britain’s Deputy Consul General in the city, also known as Yekaterinburg, which is a major industrial center and is described as “a key outpost for British trade”. The explicit video, which was anonymously posted on a Russian news website under the title “Adventures of Mr Hudson in Russia”, is thought to have been shot by agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in what is known in espionage circles as a “honey trap”. Read more of this post