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Russian Secret Service officer dies from COVID-19 after paramedics refuse to answer his calls for two days

Source: Meduza
Alexander Shcherbak / TASS / Scanpix /LETA

Alexey Titov, a 42-year-old major in Russia's Federal Protective Service (FSO) and an assistant at the Moscow Kremlin on-call Commandant’s Office, died of pneumonia at an FSB hospital on April 30. After his death, his relatives received his test results showing that he'd tested positive for COVID-19. A source in the FSO reported this information to Meduza, and it was confirmed by two of his friends. Another source close to the FSO confirmed information about the major’s death, but emphasized that he was unaware of Titov’s coronavirus diagnosis. 

“[Alexey Titov]'s last daily shift was on April 22, when he went home to [the Moscow suburbs] with a minor illness, but no fever. Since it’s not recommended to take sick leave without a fever in the FSO, and because he didn't want to let down his colleagues, he hoped to recover after three days off and come back to work,” Titov’s friend told Meduza. 

According to Meduza's source, Titov spent two days trying to call an ambulance — April 26 and 27 — dialing the Moscow emergency number 112, but emergency dispatchers refused to send paramedics on the grounds that his symptoms were too mild. “As a result, on April 28, after Titov called work and [filed] a report that he was already dying, they found one of the agency's vehicles for him — an ambulance from the president’s fleet — and brought him to the FSB hospital at 1 Pekhotnyy Lane,” Meduza’s source said. “There they diagnosed [him] with double pneumonia and took a swab for the coronavirus. On April 29, he was put into a medically induced coma.” 

Meduza sent inquiries to Moscow's 112 service, which reports to the city's Civil Defense and Emergency Situations Department, as well as to the department itself, and to the press service of the Moscow Mayor’s Office. We requested a response to reports about Titov’s calls to the ambulance service and asked the authorities to clarify where the officer’s calls were redirected. According to a Meduza source close to the 112 service, this type of data is saved and available in the form of electronic calling records. 

According to a brief obituary posted under a photograph in the FSO's employee dining hall (which Meduza examined), Titov worked in the Kremlin for a total of 24 years. He served as a conscript in the Presidential Regiment from 1996 to 1998 and then spent another 22 years in various positions in the FSO’s Moscow Kremlin Commandant’s Office. Meduza also managed to locate Titov’s social media accounts, corroborating his death through the statuses posted by his friends and relatives, as well as in the comments on their posts.

The officer’s body was cremated at a morgue near the FSB Central Military Hospital on May 3. His ashes should be surrendered to his relatives at a later date, Meduza’s source in the FSO explained.

According to the source, departmental employees in the Kremlin are not being tested for COVID-19. The precautionary measures now in effect are apparently limited to on-duty temperature checks that rely on “devices that do not always show the results accurately,” as well as disposable masks “that are issued to the employees working under the [security] cameras.” 

“You are always surprised by media reports about the millions of tests done [in Russia for COVID-19]. In the FSO, only employees who are personally guarding the president and other important figures, and are living in quarantine for two weeks at the departmental base, are undergoing regular testing,” explained a source in the secret service.

Another source in the FSO had not heard about the death of an officer in the Kremlin, but confirmed that doctors at FSB health clinics do not travel beyond the Moscow Ring Road (MKAD) and ask civilian institutions to handle any local house calls. “Then difficulties arise with the conversion of medical certificates, which is not welcome. Therefore, it’s preferable to take sick leave at a FSB health clinic,” the source clarified.

Meduza also sent requests to the FSB’s Public Relations Center, asking for a comment on problems with medical care for employees of the FSO and other branches of Russia's intelligence community. Meduza also asked the FSO press center for a comment on Titov’s death, as well as the departmental headquarters for the prevention of the coronavirus of the state security agencies. At the time of publication, Meduza had not received any responses to these requests.

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Report by Maxim Solopov

Translation by Eilish Hart