In a pattern of bizarre deaths, Russian dissidents continue to disappear under Putin’s ‘greatest hits’

Several major dissidents, including politicians and journalists, have died in unsolved cases

Putin's 'greatest hits'

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opponents continue to vanish under mysterious circumstances, with a string of sudden and peculiar deaths. The demise of his primary domestic adversary, Alexei Navalny, was attributed to a sudden collapse by Russian authorities.

“In general, as a culture, Russians don’t believe in coincidences. However, in this specific instance, there are compelling reasons why, although we may not definitively ascertain the exact cause of Navalny’s death, many analysts believe that Russian intelligence services are likely responsible,” stated Rebekah Koffler, a strategic military intelligence analyst and the author of “Putin’s Playbook,” in an interview with US Newzs Digital.

“There’s a specific intelligence technique dating back to 1920 that the Soviets utilized to eliminate individuals deemed as enemies of the state,” Koffler stated. “The Soviets, and now the Russians, are adept at covering their tracks and making assassinations appear as natural or accidental deaths.

“Wet affairs, which refers to the spilling of blood, is a doctrine involving targeted assassinations. This includes poisonings, executions by gunshot to the back of the head, coerced suicides such as jumping out of a window, explosions from mini-bombs hidden in items like boxes of chocolates, and other orchestrated methods,” Koffler elaborated.

Individuals who have died under mysterious circumstances during Vladimir Putin's reign.

Koffler asserted that Putin has not hesitated to imply that the deaths of opposition figures—whether a direct adversary like Navalny or an ally challenging his authority like Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin—occurred at his direction because “he wants us to know that his operatives are behind the operation.”

“He sends us subtle signals that are easily discerned by those familiar with Putin’s character and knowledgeable about Russian intelligence’s signature tactics,” Koffler explained. “For instance, following the poisoning of GRU officer Sergei Skripal, Putin remarked in an interview with the Financial Times in June 2019 that ‘treason is the most serious crime on Earth, and traitors must be punished.’”

“In 2010, when asked if he had ever issued orders to ‘liquidate enemies of the motherland abroad,’ Putin responded, ‘Traitors will meet their end on their own — whatever they received in return for their betrayal — those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them,'” she added.

Navalny passed away in prison last week after collapsing, with prison officials alleging it was due to “sudden death syndrome.” However, an anonymous paramedic claiming to work for a morgue informed independent news outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe that he observed bruising on the body consistent with someone being restrained during a seizure.

Prigozhin, who perished in a sudden plane explosion that claimed his life and the lives of all on board, and Navalny are among the most prominent instances of Putin’s adversaries meeting untimely ends. Still, numerous examples have transpired throughout his tenure.

Boris Nemtsov, another significant domestic opponent, died in 2015 just before an opposition rally. As he crossed a bridge outside the Kremlin, a gunman from a passing car shot Nemtsov four times. Putin extended condolences and labeled the incident a “provocation” before instructing authorities to conduct an investigation.


Subsequently, authorities apprehended five individuals who were later sentenced to prison terms ranging from 11 to 20 years for Nemtsov’s murder. However, the Russian government consistently refrains from characterizing Nemtsov’s death as a political assassination.

Anna Politkovskaya, an American-Russian journalist and human rights activist, was fatally shot in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in 2006. Known for her outspoken criticism of the Kremlin, particularly concerning policies related to Chechnya, Politkovskaya’s death investigation failed to determine the instigator of the attack. Investigators dismissed any involvement by Moscow-backed Ramzan Kadyrov, who later assumed power as the head of the Chechen Republic.

Kadyrov also denied any role in the death of journalist Natalya Estemirova, who was abducted and killed in 2008 outside her home in Grozny. Chechnya reverted to Russian federal control in 2009 and has since remained a staunch ally of Russia. It has publicly supported Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine and has contributed troops to the conflict.

More recently, several prominent Russian businessmen have died in a series of peculiar incidents after speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Among them was oil giant Lukoil’s Chairman Ravil Maganov, who reportedly fell from a hospital window. While Lukoil claimed Maganov’s death resulted from an illness, Russian media, and investigators concluded that he had fallen from a sixth-story window.


Similarly, Pavel Antov, widely known as Russia’s “sausage king” and a local politician, also fell from a window in late 2022. Authorities discovered him deceased outside the Hotel Sai International in Rayagada, India, shortly after celebrating his 65th birthday. Additionally, one of Antov’s traveling companions also passed away at the hotel.

At least eight other Russian oligarchs perished under peculiar circumstances during the initial year of the invasion. International investigators speculated that these deaths might have been staged suicides or assassinations in retaliation for the oligarchs’ opposition to the invasion or their involvement in corruption within the Russian gas company Gazprom.

Koffler elaborated to US Newzs Digital that if intelligence agencies orchestrated these deaths, they would have been meticulously designed to appear stealthy, making it difficult for investigators to identify any foul play.

“They are typically labeled as ‘tragic accidents,’ which is also part of the strategy,” she added.

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