Since 2003, more than two dozen murders or mysterious deaths in multiple countries seem to trace back to Moscow.
But no one seems to be doing much about it.
Last week, BuzzFeed News released the first two parts of a two-year investigation detailing how US spy agencies gave the British government, upon its request, evidence linking the murders or deaths of 14 Russians and Brits in the UK to the Kremlin, the FSB – Russia’s security agency – or the Russian mafia, which sometimes works with the government. But the British government has ruled out foul play in each case.
The report was based on a large volume of documents, phone records and secret recordings, as well as interviews with American, British and French intelligence and law enforcement officials.
In early May, USA Today also reported that “38 prominent Russians” had been murdered or died suspiciously since 2014. Nineteen of the incidents happened outside of Russia: 3 in the US (2 in New York and 1 in Washington DC), 1 in Greece, 1 in India, 1 in Kazakhstan, and 12 in Ukraine.
USA Today named three other victims, but could not determine the locations of the incidents.
On June 1, a Chechen assassin posing as a French journalist also tried to kill a married couple, Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev, in Kiev. The Kremlin had accused the couple, whom later fought against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, of trying to assassinate Putin in 2012.
When the Chechen assassin, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, was interviewing the couple in a car, he pulled out a gun and shot Osmayev. Okuyeva then pulled out a gun and shot the assassin four times. The assassin and Osmayev both survived, and the Ukrainian government has accused Russia of ordering the hit.
The 14 victims BuzzFeed News has revealed had all gotten in the way or run afoul of powerful Russians. They were either stabbed, killed in mysterious crashes, hanged, driven to suicide after repeated threats against their lives, or poisoned.
One victim, Alexander Litvinenko, a whistleblower, had traces of radioactive polonium 210 in his system, a substance only made in Russia, BuzzFeed News said.
Even the scientist who found the trail of polonium all over London, Matthew Puncher, was eventually found stabbed to death, BuzzFeed News said.
Scotland Yard’s former counter-terror commander, Richard Walton, told BuzzFeed News that Russia is skilled at “disguising murder” by using biological or chemical agents that leave no trace.
But what all these deaths have in common is that the British government has done nothing, ruling out foul play in all cases, according to BuzzFeed News.
That’s because the British government is scared of any political, cyberwarfare or traditional warfare retaliation by the Russians, according to 17 US and British intelligence officials who spoke with BuzzFeed. They also have the incentive to keep Russian oligarch money in their banks.
The Washington, D.C. Police Department did not respond to request for comment on any ongoing investigation into the death of Mikhail Lesin, the founder of Russia Today and former Gazprom executive who was found dead in his D.C. hotel with blunt force head injuries.
The New York Police Department declined to comment to Business Insider about the murder of Sergei Krivov, saying information could only be released via a Freedom of Information Act request. The NYPD pointed Business Insider to the United Nations when asked about the death of Vitaly Churkin, the former Russian diplomat to the UN, who died of an apparent heart attack.
The UN said to contact the Russian government. The Russian Embassy in D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One glaring difference between the deaths in the UK or US, and those in Ukraine, are the methods used. Almost every victim in Ukraine was shot, tortured or killed in a bombing, USA Today reported.
The possible reasons for this are many, according to Stratfor Chief Security Officer Fred Burton.
Russian mobsters, who only know violent methods, may have been contracted, or Russia could be trying to send signals to Ukraine. It could also be because Russia is trying to evade the US and UK’s more sophisticated intelligence communities.
As for recourse, the US and UK could make the Russian ambassadors persona non grata, ramp up surveillance of known Russian agents, or even put out Interpol warrants out on suspected assassins, Burton said.
“But with that could come foreign policy blowback,” Burton told Business Insider. “I’m not optimistic.”