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Suicide or Kremlin hit? Friends of Putin critic Dan Rapaport raise fears over mystery death

Dan Rapoport’s outspoken criticism of the Russian president and support for Alexei Navalny would have placed him squarely within the Moscow’s crosshairs, friends say

Bevan Hurley
New York
Friday 26 August 2022 23:50 BST
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Friends of a prominent Vladimir Putin critic who fell to his death from a luxury Washington DC apartment building have raised fears he may have been the victim of a Kremlin-ordered assassination.

Dan Rapoport, 52, was found dead in the evening of 14 August by police after they were notified that a jumper had fallen from the 2400 M Apartment building in Georgetown.

The Latvian-American, who made a fortune working in Russia before leaving the country after falling out of favour with Mr Putin in 2012, had a cracked mobile phone, eye glasses, a Florida driver’s licence and $2620 (£2,200) in cash on him when he died, a Metropolitan Police Department report obtained by The Independent showed.

His death is not being treated as suspicious by police.

Mr Rapoport was an early supporter of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and was a prominent and well respected member of the community of exiles who left Russia under threat of retribution.

In a new Politico report, friends said they had seen signs that Mr Rapoport had been struggling to adjust to life in DC since moving back there without his wife and young child.

But given the Kremlin’s lengthy alleged history of state-sanctioned assassinations, they said it was imperative that his death was investigated thoroughly.

Bill Browder, a former Moscow-based financier who campaigned for sanctions against Russia after the death of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison, told Politico the police explanation was “premature and unhelpful”.

“I think the circumstances of his death are extremely suspicious,” Mr Browder said.

He pointed to news of Rapoport’s death first being reported on Telegram by the former editor of Russian Tatler as raising alarm bells.

Yuniya Pugacheva made several claims that turned out to be incorrect, including that Mr Rapoport’s dog was found in park near his Washington DC home with a suicide note.

American journalist and historian David Satter, who was expelled from Russia in 2013 over his critical reporting of the regime, told Politico that nothing made sense about Rapoport’s death.

Rapoport’s death has sparked concerns of Kremlin involvement (Dan Rapoport/Facebook)

“There’s an old saying that anyone can commit a murder but it takes brains to commit a suicide,” he said.

Friends said the mysterious death of a former Putin aide in Washington DC in 2015 showed that law enforcement did not always carry out thorough investigations.

Mikhail Lesin’s death was initially thought to be from a heart attack, until a medical examiner found he had suffered blunt-force trauma to his head four months later.

Police eventually ruled the death was due to injuries suffered from a fall after excessive alcohol consumption.

Another friend Yuri Somov told Politico that suicide was a plausible explanation, saying he had been suffering from a prolonged separation from his young family.

His widow Alyona Rapoport has only given one interview with Russian media in which she ruled out suicide as a possible cause of death.

Another friend, Ilya Ponomarev told Politico he had spoken to Ms Rapoport who maintained that her husband had not taken his own life.

But he was less certain. He said Rapoport had appeared distressed and was drinking heavily when they met at a barbecue over the summer.

Fiona Hill, a prominent Russia expert who testified at Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, also played down the prospect of Moscow involvement.

“Not every unexplained death in Russia is the KGB or the GRU bumping someone off,” she told Politico.

Adding to the mystery was a post Rapoport made to Facebook days before his death of a picture of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.

“The horror, the horror,” the post read.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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