The mysterious death last week of a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in Washington’s West End neighborhood is drawing fury from some of the Kremlin’s best-known global detractors — but scant notice in Washington, where police say they don’t suspect foul play was behind Dan Rapoport’s fall from a luxury apartment building on the night of Aug. 14.
“I think the circumstances of his death are extremely suspicious,” says Bill Browder, the formerly Moscow-based American financier who became a crusader for sanctions after the killing of his Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Browder got to know Rapoport in Moscow years ago, before they both fell out of favor with the Russian regime. “Whenever someone who is in a negative view of the Putin regime dies suspiciously, one should rule out foul play, not rule it in.”
According to a Metropolitan Police Department incident report, officers responding to a call about a jumper found the 52-year-old Rapoport’s body on the sidewalk. He was wearing orange flip flops and a black hat and had a cracked phone, headphones and $2,620 in cash on him, but no wallet or credit cards. The police say the case remains open, even without a suspicion of foul play. As is standard for suspected suicides, a medical examiner’s report — which would typically reference medical or other records, include a toxicology screen and incorporate X-rays and other posthumous forensics to determine if there was a struggle before the fall — is pending.
The deceased was no mere exile. A Latvian-born U.S. citizen, Rapoport moved back to the U.S. in 2012 after making a fortune in Moscow but running afoul of the Russian government. Settling in Washington, he rubbed elbows with mover and shakers, living in a Kalorama manse that his family later sold for $5.5 million in 2016, when it became the home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. By then, Rapoport had relocated again, setting up shop in Kyiv, where he became a frequent contact of U.S. media.
In the eyes of Rapoport’s political allies, the history of untimely deaths of Kremlin critics makes the police’s initial no-foul-play conclusion seem naive. “He was a well-known critic of Putin in the West and had been an effective critic,” Browder says. “He was also an open supporter of [the jailed opposition leader] Alexei Navalny. And he had all these connections in the elite of Washington, D.C. The immediate response of the Washington, D.C. police, I think, is a premature and unhelpful conclusion.” [Continue reading…]