I’m sure there’s some Yakov Smirnoff material in here somewhere but the subject is too depressing to go there. Another example of the freedom of the press in Vladimir Putin’s world reaches us this week as a discovery was made involving a former Russian journalist who had been a vocal critic of Putin’s. The discovery in question was the dead body of Alexander Shchetinin, splayed out on the balcony of his apartment in Kiev, Ukraine, with the cause being attributed to “suicide.” (Metro.co.uk)

A Russian journalist and well-known critic of Vladimir Putin has been found dead in Ukraine on his birthday.

Alexander Shchetinin’s body was discovered by his friends early this morning at his Kiev apartment, according to a Facebook post from the police.

He had a gunshot wound to the head and there was also a suicide note, with a weapon found nearby.

‘Police ascertain the circumstances of the death of the journalist,’ a message on the force’s social media page said.

Absent further evidence I suppose we should admit that there’s at least a possibility (however theoretical) that Shchetinin actually took his own life willingly. (As opposed to pulling the trigger under threat from agents offering him a choice of that or torture, the death of family members, etc.) People do become depressed or gravely ill at times and choose that route. But to say this seems suspicious is putting it mildly. The journalist had previously described Putin as “a personal enemy” of his. And it’s not as if Vlad doesn’t have a history of his enemies conveniently disappearing or reaching room temperature ahead of schedule. Sky News published a retrospective of Putin critics who joined the Choir Eternal under dubious circumstances recently and it goes far beyond the shooting of Boris Nemtsov within sight of the Kremlin not that long ago.

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in November 2006, almost three weeks after drinking tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210…

Anna Politkovskaya. The 48-year-old journalist, a prominent critic of Mr Vladimir Putin, was gunned down at her Moscow apartment block on 7 October 2006, the president’s birthday. She was shot twice in the chest, once in the shoulder, and once, at point blank range, in the head…

Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in police custody in November 2009 after allegedly being denied medical treatment and brutally beaten…

Prominent human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was found dead hours after being kidnapped on 15 July, 2009, in the Chechen capital, Grozny…

Leading human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was gunned down in broad daylight on 19 January, 2009. Journalist Anastasia Baburova, 25, was shot dead after she tried to come to his assistance.

You’ll note that the list above isn’t short of journalists so we have something of a pattern here. And the circumstances of Shchetinin’s death fall rather easily into that repeating cycle. The official police report which was released by authorities notes that, “Spent cartridges [note the plural] were also found at the scene.” This is supposedly a suicide where Shchetinin shot himself in the head. How many shots did the guy need? Evan assuming he’s a really poor marksman you’d think he could manage this sort of feat on the first go.

Vladimir Putin is a strongman in every sense of the word. It’s no wonder that he attracts the interest and adoration of people like Kim Jong-un and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sure, it’s still theoretically possible that Shchetinin killed himself. It’s also possible that I’m the rightful King of England but nobody’s dug up the family lineage far enough to establish it.

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