Thirty-two-year-old Russian investigative journalist Maksim Borodin died suddenly over the weekend, his employer Novy Den confirmed on Monday. Authorities have described his death as a probable suicide, a narrative contested both by friends and Novy Den.
Borodin was found underneath the balconies of his building in the city of Yekaterinburg on April 12 and died three days later without having recovered consciousness.
According to the US government-funded Radio Free Europe, a policeman spokesman from Sverdlovsk Oblast said it was "unlikely that this story is of a criminal nature." Police said that the reporter's fifth-floor apartment was locked from the inside, and that there was no sign of a break-in. They added that no suicide note had been found.
Security forces outside Borodin's apartment
Borodin's friend Vyacheslav Bashkov shared some details on Facebook on Sunday about the last time he spoke with the journalist. He claims Borodin called him at 5 in the morning on April 11, alarmed that his building was surrounded by what appeared to be security forces wearing camouflage and masks.
He told Bashkov that he was certain his apartment was about to be searched, but that the authorities were waiting on a warrant. Just one hour later, Bashkov wrote, Borodin called him back to say he had been mistaken and the officers appeared to be carrying out a drill.
Novy Dan's editor-in-chief Polina Rumyantseva has also said that she does not believe Borodin killed himself.
Borodin often wrote about public corruption and secrecy, most recently about Russian mercenaries who had been killed in Syria. Thousands have reportedly been covertly deployed to Syria by a secretive contractor believed to be funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy Putin ally recently indicted by the US over charges that he bankrolled a "troll factory" trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The deceased reporter had written an article in February about the bodies of the alleged mercenaries being buried in a nearby village.Elizabeth Schumacher (with AP)