‘An investigation loves silence’ What little we know about Igor Krasnov, Russia’s next attorney general
On January 20, 2020, Vladimir Putin dismissed long-time Attorney General Yuri Chaika and asked the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament to approve a replacement, Igor Krasnov, who’s known for his work as a senior official on several high-profile criminal cases at Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee. Unlike his predecessor, Krasnov hasn’t been muddied by a series of corruption scandals and has generally avoided the public spotlight, Meduza investigative correspondent Maxim Solopov learned in this special report.
A native of Arkhangelsk, Igor Krasnov graduated from the “Lomonosov” Pomor State University. In 1997, he found a job as an investigator in the Arkhangelsk regional prosecutor’s office. In 2005, he was transferred to Moscow and included in the investigative group assigned to the attempted assassination of Anatoly Chubais, then the head of the electric power holding company “RAO UES.”
Krasnov impressed his supervisors in the case and he was soon invited to join the Attorney General's Office’s headquarters in Moscow. Appointed in October 2006 as the director of the Investigative Committee (before it was split from the Attorney General’s Office), Alexander Bastrykin and his closest aide Dmitry Dovgy were busy bolstering the ranks of people who were independent of the Attorney General's Office’s direct leadership. Dogvy told Meduza that Krasnov was already working at the agency’s headquarters in the capital when he transferred to the Investigative Committee.
Krasnov was tapped to lead further investigations into the attempted killing of Chubais. By December 2016, the authorities had apprehended the only wanted suspect in the case: the son of former Press and Information Minister Boris Mironov, nationalist Ivan Mironov, who says Krasnov personally took part in his arrest and “reported directly to Dogvy.” “After the interrogation, Krasnov himself brought me to the isolation ward at 38 Petrovka [the Interior Ministry’s headquarters],” recalls Mironov, now a lawyer. “Despite the fact that I spent two years in a pretrial detainment center, where I was subjected to the toughest [interrogation] measures, including psychotropic drugs, a jury shut the door on my involvement in this case by exonerating me completely.” The jury also acquitted the other defendants led by Kvachkov, who became a cult figure for Russian nationalists and opposition-minded officials in Russia’s security apparatus.
Despite the trial’s results, it was in this work that Krasnov apparently dazzled Alexander Bastrykin, who promoted him to serve under the Investigative Committee director as a senior major crimes investigator. Meduza’s sources in law enforcement say Krasnov also established himself among Federal Security Service agents as a competent lawyer who could be trusted with sensitive political issues.
There’s almost nothing published about Krasnov’s personal life. Based on his income declarations, all we know is that he has an underage child and he was married until 2018, though these family members aren’t mentioned anywhere in Krasnov’s official biographies. Sources with access to place-of-residence database information confirmed to Meduza that Krasnov is formally registered at Tekhnicheskiy Pereulok, Building 2 (the same address as the Investigative Committee’s head office in Moscow), which could be related to his role in multiple high-profile cases. Krasnov doesn’t like speaking to the press, and in interviews he doesn’t say much. “An investigation loves silence,” Krasnov once told a Meduza correspondent when approached for comment about an ongoing criminal case.
The next milestone in Krasnov’s career was the investigation into the murders of attorney Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. Following the killings, then President Dmitry Medvedev took personal command of the case, which Krasnov helped solve within a year by working closely with the FSB’s counterterrorism and constitutional-defense department. Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov was the first to report the investigation’s success to Medvedev, but Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin regularly noted his agency’s key contributions to the case in subsequent speeches. Former staff from the Investigative Committee told Meduza that Krasnov was “Bastrykin’s favorite.”
The investigation exposed a whole underground network of neo-Nazis in Russia, uncovering the murders of anti-fascist leaders Fyodor Filatov (2008) and Ivan Khutorsky (2009), Thai boxing champion Muslim Abdullaev (2009), and Moscow City Court judge Eduard Chuvashov (2010), as well as the attempted murder of a police officer and the beheading of a migrant worker from Tajikistan. Suspects testified in interrogations that right-wing radicals worked with “curators” from the domestic policy team inside the presidential administration, which at the time was headed by Vladislav Surkov. The investigation and the trial against the murderers were commended, even by human rights activists and Baburova’s colleagues at Novaya Gazeta. All suspects were convicted in jury trials.
“He’s a cool fed — what else can I say?” says Ilnur Sharapov, a lawyer at the “Agora” human rights group, when asked about Krasnov. Sharapov represented the families of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova in their murder case. “[Krasnov] assembled all these cases that were just lying around in district departments and gathering dust. And he got the ball rolling.”
“Agora” director Pavel Chikov agrees. “As the head of the investigative group on these cases, he left a good personal and professional impression. It’s safe to say that the elimination a decade ago of Moscow’s armed neo-Nazi underground, which was responsible for dozens of murders, is largely the result of Krasnov’s work,” Chikov wrote on his Telegram channel.
Krasnov later investigated billions of rubles stolen from the Vostochny Spaceport in a case under President Putin’s direct command.
Krasnov’s next major case was the assassination of former First Deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. This was another joint investigation with the FSB’s counterterrorism and constitutional-defense “2nd Service.”
A former law-enforcement official who helped solve high-profile killings, including with Krasnov’s group, told Meduza that Krasnov reported personally to President Putin on progress in the Nemtsov murder case. The investigation has been widely criticized for failing to identify those responsible for ordering the assassination, but even Nemtsov’s relatives say they have no doubts that the men convicted of carrying out the murder are the direct perpetrators.
During the Nemtsov case, Krasnov’s career soared to new heights. Before the investigation was done, he was promoted in 2015 to lead a specially-created department comprising investigators under Bastrykin, each of whom had his own general’s rank and oversaw the highest-profile cases in the country. The Nemtsov murder case was entrusted to Krasnov’s subordinate, Police General Nikolai Tutevich, and Bastrykin instructed Krasnov to head an investigative group looking into the July 1918 execution of the Romanov royal family.
A little later, Krasnov became Bastrykin’s first deputy and to a large extent began managing the agency. A former criminal investigation department director told Meduza that Krasnov formed a “strong bond” with FSB Deputy Director Alexey Sedov while working together on multiple high-profile cases. (Sedov oversees the FSB’s counterterrorism and constitutional-defense department.)
Ivan Mironov, the former suspect in the attempted assassination of Anatoly Chubais, says Krasnov’s appointment as attorney general signals a more hardline approach to political cases in Russia. On the other hand, Novaya Gazeta deputy editor-in-chief Sergey Sokolov, who’s personally acquainted with Krasnov, thinks political considerations aren’t the main reason for the personnel shakeup. “I suspect that the president has recently promoted people to top positions who aren’t associated with specific groups of influence. To a greater extent, this could be tied to new redistributions [of power] between the Investigative Committee and the Attorney General’s Office in favor of more control over investigators,” says Sokolov.
Several law-enforcement officers who say they’ve been waiting years for agency reforms told Meduza that they share Sokolov’s intuition. The most common theory predicts a merger of investigators from the Interior Ministry and the Investigative Committee with a strengthened supervisory role for the Attorney General’s Office. Multiple sources told Meduza, however, that they question Krasnov’s ability to cope with his new role and the attorney general’s specific investigative oversight functions.