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A journalist who took aim at Russian officials and promised to release details of “gigantic corruption” was found dead near a roadside over the weekend, but the circumstances of his death remain shrouded in mystery.
“It will be almost impossible to determine whether foul play was involved Rybin’s death or whether he died of heart disease as some Russian media outlets claim,” Rebekah Koffler, a strategic military intelligence analyst and the author of “Putin’s Playbook,” told Fox News Digital.
Alexander Rybin, 39, was found near a highway some 130 miles outside the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where he had spent time reporting on the Russian invasion. The official cause of death was that he died from “cardiomyopathy” after an autopsy, The Sun reported, citing Russian state media.
Some outlets have described Rybin as a pro-Kremlin journalist, but in the last few weeks of his life he had grown highly critical of officials in the region. He blamed rampant corruption for the slow rebuilding of the city and Donetsk region.
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In one of his last reports, Rybin reported that Mariupol had “gigantic money” and “gigantic opportunities for corruption.”
Russian journalist Alexander Rybin, who was found dead this week by a roadside outside the city of Mariupol. (East2West)
According to a translation from The Sun, Rybin explained that his “personal impression” — which he tried to stress was not an accusation of any kind — “is that there is a gigantic corruption going on in Mariupol, which the Russian army occupied with heavy fighting in spring 2022.”
“The year 2023, in my opinion, is in no way easier for the residents of Mariupol than what was happening in 2022, unfortunately,” he said, promising to deliver more details on the corruption, this time broadcasting from left-wing online platform Rabkor, according to The Times of India.
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Koffler noted that “scores of Russian journalists” have ended up dead “in mysterious circumstances” after criticizing the Russian regime or Putin directly.
Russian and Chechen soldiers in a devastated Mariupol neighborhood close to the Azovstal frontline. The battle between Russian / Pro Russian forces and the defending Ukrainian forces led by the Azov battalion continues in the port city of Mariupol. (Photo by Maximilian Clarke/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Photo by Maximilian Clarke/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
“What we also know for a fact is that the so–called ‘wet affairs,’ a term used for targeted assassinations, is a tradecraft of Russian intelligence used to eliminate the opponents of the regime,” Koffler explained. “We also know that these operatives are extremely skilled at making their victim’s death look natural.”
“Whether Rybin was such a victim of a targeted assassination will likely remain a mystery,” she argued.
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Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol’s mayor, tied Rybin’s death to his claims of corruption and tried to link it to Russian officials in the city.
The remains of a statue and other rubble lie in front of the Azovstal steel mill, which was the last place in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol to fall to Russian forces in late May 2022. A Russian master plan for the city envisions restoring the destroyed factory as an industrial park, but there are no signs that any work has begun. (AP Photo) (AP Photo)
Rybin’s death followed the mysterious death of Zoya Konovalova, the Kuban propaganda channel chief editor, who was found dead of suspected poisoning.
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Reports of Rybin’s death stressed the fact that his bank cards and valuables remained undisturbed following his death. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for Rostov Region stated that the death did not show any criminal signs.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.