Russian journalist Maxim Borodin died after falling from the fifth-story balcony of his apartment in the city of Yekaterinburg last week. While local police are dismissing the notion of foul play, friends and colleagues of Borodin are calling for an independent investigation over suspicions that Borodin may have possibly been targeted.
The day before his death, Borodin reportedly called his friend Vyacheslav Bashkov at five o'clock in the morning, saying his building was surrounded and that there was "someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing." But later, Borodin called back to say it was all a false alarm and that Russian security services were simply conducting an exercise.
But Bashkov added: "His work was very dangerous. He was one of the best."
One of Borodin's recent stories covered the deaths of three Russian mercenaries who were reportedly killed in a confrontation with US forces in Syria on February 7. The mercenaries worked for the Wagner Group, which was referred to as "a shadowy Kremlin-linked private military contractor" by the newspaper Borodin wrote for, Novy Den.
And Borodin had other reasons to fear for his life.
After a 2017 interview on an independent Russian television station about the film "Matilda," Borodin was attacked by an unidentified perpetrator and hit over the head with a metal pipe.
With media being controlled by the state, Russia is known as one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom — out of 100 countries, they're ranked 83rd by Freedom House, who calls Putin's regime "a trailblazer in globalizing state propaganda."
Russia's Investigative Committee ruled out the possibility of any crime in connection with Borodin's death, and were looking into several possibilities as to how he might have fallen from the balcony. His apartment was reportedly locked from the inside.
The editor in chief of Novy Den, Polina Rumyantseva said: "We were able to visit the apartment of Maxim, together with the police and forensic experts on Friday, the intermediate conclusion is that Maxim fell out of the balcony of his apartment where he was probably smoking. As Maxim had big plans for his personal life and career, there is nothing to support a verdict of suicide."