Russian opposition activist Ivan Skripnichenko died after being attacked by a man angry he opposed Vladimir Putin. Over a month later, nobody has been arrested, his family can’t see his autopsy, and authorities say he probably died of heart disease. The assault on the 36-year-old father-of-two is one of a growing number of vicious attacks on opposition figures in the run-up to a presidential election in March which Putin, the incumbent, is widely expected to contest. Most activists do not believe that Putin or the Kremlin have a hand in the attacks, which have included caustic liquid being thrown in a victim’s eyes, a car being set alight, and, in one case, an activist being bashed over the head with an iron bar. But critics say the way the authorities have handled the cases – it’s rare for anyone to be arrested and a nationalist group which says its carries out such attacks openly boasts about its activities – shows that they are at best turning a blind eye, and at worst tacitly condoning the violence.
Yulia Latynina, a journalist critical of the authorities, was forced to flee Russia this summer after having faeces thrown at her, her car torched, and noxious gas pumped into her home.
For her, Skripnichenko’s death is part of a dangerous trend, and she has accused the authorities of losing control of the violent extremists responsible.
“When you splash antiseptic in people’s faces, pour shit over people, beat up activists, puncture their tires, or burn something, sooner or later someone will be burned alive or die in a fight,” Latynina said on her own radio show.
“And that’s murder.”