Putin's unguarded guards A 34-year-old officer in Russia’s Federal Protective Service dies from COVID-19. Colleagues say the agency isn’t providing enough PPE — even at the Kremlin.
Alexander Filatov, a captain in the Federal Protective Service’s 6th Communications Department, died on April 26 from COVID-19, a source in the FSO and two people who knew him confirmed to Meduza. Filatov was 34 years old.
“[The first time] he came to the outpatient clinic, they put him on medical leave and told him to come back in three days. Then they did an X-ray and didn’t see anything. They sent him home again. Two days later, he got worse and he came to the hospital himself. They sent him for a CT scan and only then did they catch the pneumonia in both lungs. After two days, they put him in an artificial coma and connected him to a ventilator. Eleven days later, he died,” a source in the Federal Protective Service told Meduza.
The same source says Filatov was examined at a Federal Security Service departmental clinic because the FSO doesn’t have its own medical facilities.
The Federal Protective Service is one of the intelligence agencies in Russia responsible for guarding the federal authorities, primarily the president. But the FSO has other functions, as well: its jurisdiction also extends to the presidential orchestra, the regiment whose soldiers stand guard at Moscow’s Eternal Flame, and the special-purpose garage that maintains the fleet of vehicles available to top public officials. Additionally, the FSO controls a special communications department that inherited the functions of FAPSI (the Federal Agency for Government Communications) when that agency was dissolved in 2003.
Meduza obtained a photo taken at the FSO’s communications headquarters on Bolshoi Kiselny Lane in Moscow that appears to show a small memorial dedicated to Filatov. The image features a black-framed portrait of the man with an inscription that includes his name, data of birth and death, and a brief obituary. Using this information, Meduza was able to find Filatov’s accounts on social media. One friend confirmed his death and the circumstances of his illness, citing accounts from mutual friends. Another individual who knows Filatov’s family verified that he died from COVID-19.
Meduza’s source in the FSO says another two dozen officers were diagnosed with coronavirus before April 22, and he warns that most agency staff have found it difficult to get tested for COVID-19 at the FSB’s clinic.
“If you come with a fever and a cough, they ask, ‘Any contact with foreigners?’ If the answer is no, then it’s ‘no can do’ on a test. At the FSB’s departmental clinics, at least until mid-April, they only tested if you had confirmed contact or you were in really bad shape, like pneumonia,” explains Meduza’s source, who says this applies even to those who work at the Kremlin. “Throughout the work day, you watch as staff enter the Kremlin, just to the right of Spasskaya Tower. There’s a garrison officer there who supposedly measures their temperatures as they walk in. Outside, the only reading you can get on this device is ‘error.’ That’s it. Formally, masks are handed out to senior staff, but they don’t always make it to their subordinates, and it’s only once a week, if they do — just so officers can appear before the commanders in gloves and masks. They’re distributed to the department, to the department head, to the division heads. They hold onto them for special occasions, when there are eyes watching. In my department, they gave me two masks in a week. I carry my own sanitizer. And this is in the Kremlin! True, [at the presidential residence] in Novo-Ogaryovo], there’s a crate of sanitizer in every office.”
Another source close to the FSO’s Presidential Security Service told Meduza that he hadn’t heard of Filatov’s death, explaining that the agency’s communications department has a large staff with officers serving at several facilities all in the Moscow region. Meduza’s source says Filatov’s unit is responsible for maintaining radio communications. Also, staff in this department are not in direct contact with top officials.
The FSO has operated a coronavirus task force since March 2020, but Meduza was unable to reach anyone by calling the phone number indicated on the agency’s website. At the time of this writing, no one from the FSO’s coronavirus task force or press office has responded to Meduza’s emails about Alexander Filatov.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock