Ivan Skripnichenko, a 35-year-old Russian opposition activist, was standing guard at a makeshift memorial to a slain Kremlin foe when a man dressed in army surplus clothing walked up to him. “Don’t you love Putin?” he asked, before knocking Skripnichenko down with a punch to the face. Eight days later, Skripnichenko was dead. “It was a powerful and professional blow,” Marina Lebedeva, an anti-government activist who says she witnessed the August 15 attack in central Moscow, tells Newsweek. The assailant also kicked Skripnichenko as he lay on the ground next to the flower-strewn “people’s memorial” for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was shot dead at the exact same spot near Red Square by Chechen gunmen in 2015. Authorities have refused to give permission for the memorial, and so opposition activists have been guarding it around-the-clock since Nemtsov’s murder.
Although there are around a dozen security cameras on and near the bridge, which is within sight of the Kremlin walls, police say there is no closed-circuit TV footage of the attack on Skripnichenko. That’s also what they said after Nemtsov was gunned down.
Skripnichenko, a father of two who was into Western rock music, died in hospital while being treated for his injuries. Investigators have not made any arrests over the assault and say Skripnichenko may have died of heart disease unrelated to the beating he received. Family members have contested this, saying the keen glider and parachutist was in perfect health. His fellow opposition activists have no doubt about what happened that evening.
“This was a political murder,” says Lebedeva. “The beasts killed Ivan.”