Dmitry Bykov is a prodigious polymath of Russian letters and journalism. He has written prize-winning biographies and was part of a team that created “Citizen Poet,” a hit series online and on television offering biting political satire. For a decade, he has been a leading voice in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. On April 13, 2019, traveling with his wife, Ekaterina Kevkhishvili, he arrived at Novosibirsk in Siberia for the first stop in a three-city lecture tour. Unbeknownst to Mr. Bykov, two officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrived just hours before he did.
What happened next is chilling. According to a report published Wednesday by the open-source investigative outfit Bellingcat and its partners, Mr. Bykov was away from his hotel room for several hours while serving as an honorary reader in a popular spelling contest in the city. On April 14, the FSB men left the city and flew back to Moscow. On April 15, Mr. Bykov and his wife flew to Yekaterinburg for a lecture. On April 16, they took a taxi to the airport there for a flight to Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, 840 miles east of Moscow. Mr. Bykov began feeling nauseous at the airport but boarded the flight. By the time the plane was in the air, he became violently ill, vomiting, dripping with sweat and breathing heavily, and he lay down on the aisle floor. At Ufa, on the way to the hospital by ambulance, his wife says his speech turned to jumbled, incoherent sounds.
This set of events is almost identical to what happened to Russia’s opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, more than a year later, in August 2020. [Continue reading…]