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Sorry to bother you A Russian nationalist is found dead in prison along with a note, but his lawyers and family doubt suicide

Source: Meduza
Pyotr Kassin / Kommersant

The Russian nationalist Maxim Martsinkevich, better known by his nickname “Tesak” (Hatchet), was found dead today in his prison cell in Chelyabinsk. “On Wednesday morning, an inmate born in 1984 was found without signs of life in a cell in the Chelyabinsk Region’s Federal Penitentiary Service Main Directorate Detention Center. A team of doctors attempted resuscitation measures but failed to restore the inmate’s life,” spokespeople for the Federal Penitentiary Service announced, confirming that an internal review is already underway. State investigators are also conducting a preliminary inquiry.

Based on early reports, Martsinkevich killed himself. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. According to Kommersant, he died from blood loss and razor blades were found in his cell. The newspaper says fellow inmates first discovered his body. The Telegram channel Mash, meanwhile, reported that Martsinkevich was found hanged (though the outlet also mentioned razor blades collected as evidence), alone in a four-person cell. Martsinkevich allegedly left a suicide note. The Telegram channel #FSINSEGODNYA (“Federal Penitentiary Service Today”) published a copy of the text, in which Martsinkevich apologized to the prison administration “for the inconvenience” and asked that his wife receive two of his belongings: a diary and the book “Protectionism and Communism.” The rest of his things can be thrown out, he said in the letter.

Martsinkevich’s lawyer doesn’t believe that his client killed himself. Attorney Alexey Mikhailchik says Martsinkevich was tortured into confessing to murder. “I don’t believe it was suicide. Martsinkevich wasn’t that kind of person. On [September] 9, he had a lawyer in Novosibirsk whom he told that he’d been tortured for the last three months and forced to sign some confession for murders in Moscow in the 1990s. I think these are all links in the same chain,” Mikhailchik told

Martsinkevich was serving a ten year sentence for multiple crimes in a prison colony in Karelia. Kommersant says he was being transported to Moscow via Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, and Chelyabinsk — why this route was chosen remains unclear. Mikhailchik told Kommersant that in Krasnoyarsk, Martsinkevich was put in a “sweatbox” (press-khata), where he was forced to admit to the murders and write a confession. According to his lawyer, the Investigative Committee in Moscow was supposed to conduct a preliminary inquiry based on this information.

Other lawyers who have defended Martsinkevich in the past told Kommersant that they don’t believe it was suicide either and will seek a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. His brother, Maxim Shults, also noted that Martsinkevich always said: “If they find me dead, don’t believe [it was suicide].” Social media users recalled a post Martsinkevich wrote on Vkontakte back in 2014, where he said that “if I open my veins or hang myself during transport — it means they helped me.” “He had no reason [to do it]. If this is confirmed, it means someone helped him,” Ivan Sidorov, another lawyer for Martsinkevich, told Interfax

Martsinkevich was known as the founder of the far-right movement “Restrukt.” He received his first conviction in 2007, for using neo-Nazi slogans during a debate at the Bilingua club in Moscow (the complaint against him was written by several people, including opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who led the debate) and was found guilty of distributing racist videos in 2009. When he was released in 2010, Martsinkevich launched a YouTube channel called “Occupy Pedophilia” and then another one called “Occupy Narcophilia.” He and his associates became infamous for baiting suspected pedophiles and drug dealers into video-recorded attacks, which he would then share online to humiliate them. In 2014, Martsinkevich received another conviction for publishing extremist videos on social networks. New charges were brought against him in 2015, over attacks on alleged drug dealers, one of which resulted in death. In 2017, while serving time for previous convictions, Martsinkevich was sentenced to nine years behind bars for inciting hatred, robbery and disorderly conduct. Following an attempt to overturn the conviction, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2018. Taking into account the overlapping sentences and time already served in pre-trial detention, Martsinkevich would have been eligible for early parole in 2021.

Text by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Eilish Hart and Kevin Rothrock

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