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Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Moscow Researcher Exposing Funeral Industry Corruption Attacked by Assailant with Hypodermic Needle
5 years
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An unidentified assailant attacked anthropologist and publisher Sergei Mokhov outside his home, injecting him with an unknown substance, Snob and Open Russia reported.

Mokhov's wife, Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for opposition activist Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) believes the attack could be related either to Mokhov's investigation of Russian funeral businesses, which are connected to the mafia, or to FBK's work exposing Dmitry Prigozhin, a billionaire crony of President Vladimir Putin.

Mokhov is a Moscow-based researcher and editor-in-chief of the journal Archeology of Russian Death on funeral rituals in Russia.

On his own Facebook page, Mokhov wrote (translation by The Interpreter):

The funeral market today has evidently given its first pay-back. For several days, we had stayed at a beautiful priory, and at the building entrance, a colorful youth with a bead like ISIS attacked me, hiding his face with flowers.  He injected me with a sedative or a psychotropic drug and even apologized. I lost consciousness, and thought I would die. But no, it is still early to depart this earth. The ambulance took 20 minutes to arrive, I lay prettily on the pavement the whole time. Greetings to all. Anthropology will live.

Mokhov reported on November 26 that he was back home from the hospital and in good condition. 

Curiously, LifeNews, a pro-Kremlin TV station close to Russian intelligence and law enforcement published a video of the attack which included footage from the building surveillance camera as well as other film. Sobol noted that the video was edited from different segments, and not put in order; the scene just after Mokhov is struck and is looking around to see who injected him comes first, before he approaches the door; it's as if the film-makers wanted to create the impression Mokhov was standing and waiting for someone, which he wasn't. Then another scene where Mokhov is being examined by doctors occurs before the attack, Open Russia reported.

In the LifeNews account, the assailant cries "Nothing personal!" before sticking Mokhov with the needle, and a few minutes later Mokhov wobbles on his feet and then collapses. Passers-by called an ambulance, but doctors said they were unable to determine what substance Mokhov was injected with.

In its coverage, LifeNews mentioned only one theory for the attack, that it was related to Mokhov's research of the funeral industry and its ties to the underworld. As we reported, Moscow was rocked earlier this year by a gangland war at a cemetery in which 3 people were killed and 26 injured.

The main theory at the current time is revenge by [Dmitry] Prigozhin for investigation which I and colleagues at the Anti-Corruption Fund made, including abnout his family's shares. I write and speak of this everywhere but they deliberately ignored this in their article.

Navalny's post titled "He's Putin's Chef. He's Putin's Troll. He's a Billionaire" was published October 4, saying "the twice-convicted criminal became a billionaire and one of the largest state contractors in Russia."

Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman believed to control Internet Research, Inc., known as the "Kremlin Troll Factory", runs a catering business which has served the Kremlin and obtained lucrative Defense Ministry contracts.

The St. Petersburg independent online news site Fontanka has also found links between Prigozhin and Wagner, the private military contractor whose fighters have been deployed in Syria.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick