The FSB’s busy, busy bees ‘Bellingcat’ and its partners release a new investigative report tracking the Russian agents who allegedly tailed and tried to kill Alexey Navalny
The group of Russian federal agents who allegedly followed Alexey Navalny around the country and supposedly organized his poisoning is also responsible for assassinating several other people, according to a new joint investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider, and Der Spiegel, which presents evidence that Federal Security Service officers were involved in the deaths of journalist Timur Kuashev, politician Nikita Isayev, and activist Ruslan Magomedragimov. Meduza summarizes the report’s key allegations.
Nikita Isayev’s death
The former head of the “New Russia” movement and an adviser to “Just Russia” party leader Sergey Mironov, Nikita Isayev died on November 16, 2019, aboard a train from Tambov to Moscow. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but his body was cremated in accordance with his own wishes even before his autopsy results were completed. Leaked flight records show that the FSB agents who followed and allegedly poisoned Alexey Navalny also visited the same cities at the same time as Isayev on seven different occasions in the last year before his death. Investigators found no travel documents indicating that the agents were in Tambov with Isayev at the end, but leaked telephone metadata reportedly show that one of the FSB group’s members was in the city with him in November 2019, which suggests, according to Bellingcat and its partners, that Russian federal agents could have traveled to the city using other names or reached Tambov in a private vehicle.
Bellingcat and The Insider acknowledge that there’s no clear logical explanation for why the FSB would target Isayev, a politician they admit was “absolutely loyal to the Kremlin.” The researchers speculate that Isayev may have worked with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service in some capacity that the FSB interpreted to be a betrayal. The journalists are careful, however, to emphasize that there’s no actual evidence to support this theory.
Ruslan Magomedragimov’s death
An activist with the “Unity” civic movement, Ruslan Magomedragimov was found dead in his car on March 24, 2015, in the Dagestani city of Kaspiysk. Though there were no signs of any struggle, Magomedragimov’s official cause of death was suffocation. His relatives say his body was discovered with two small marks on his neck that looked like injections from a syringe.
Investigative journalists found that an agent in the FSB’s supposed “poison squad” named Ivan Osipov flew to the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala twice in January 2014 and also flew to Vladikavkaz, four days before Magomedragimov’s death. Osipov returned to Moscow, two days after the body turned up. Konstantin Kudryavtsev (another alleged member of the FSB’s poisoners and the same agent who famously spoke to Navalny for an hour on the phone) also visited Vladikavkaz about a week before Magomedragimov died. Admittedly, Osipov was in Makhachkala on several other occasions, as well, and Bellingcat and its partners acknowledge that his overlap with Magomedragimov in the city was possibly a mere coincidence. The journalists also admit that killing someone by injection would be extremely uncommon for Russia’s security apparatus.
A year after Magomedragimov’s death, “Unity” chairman Nazim Hajiyev was found dead in his own apartment, apparently stabbed multiple times. Bellingcat’s investigation suggests that Russia’s Federal Security Service possibly targeted the “Unity” movement as a national security threat because it advocated reuniting areas of Dagestan with Azerbaijan by creating an autonomous “Lezgistan.”
Timur Kuashev’s death
A journalist and human rights activist, Timur Kuashev was found dead outside Nalchik on August 1, 2014. A syringe mark was discovered under his armpit and there were abrasions and bruises on his face and knees, but the official cause of death was a coronary failure. Investigative journalists tracked visits to the area by multiple alleged FSB agents: Konstantin Kudryavtsev arrived in Nalchik on July 13, Ivan Osipov came to Mineralnye Vody on July 22, and Denis Machikin and Roman Matyushin visited Vladikavkaz on July 29. Matyushin, Machikin, and Osipov all had return tickets to Moscow, which they all delayed by one day. “Apparently something didn’t go according to plan and everything was shifted by a day,” Bellingcat’s researchers concluded.
Journalists found that the surveillance cameras located between Kuashev’s home and the spot where he was last seen alive were all deactivated on the day of his death. Mysteriously, experts at a Moscow research institute that employs the FSB’s alleged poisoners also examined blood samples recovered from Kuashev’s body.
Bellingcat and its partners report that Timur Kuashev was one of the region’s few independent journalists and had many enemies. He may have provoked the FSB, journalists speculate, by reporting on the 2014 trial of insurgents who carried out an armed attack in Nalchik in 2005. (Human rights activists highlighted multiple procedural violations during the case.)
Translation by Kevin Rothrock