Three doctors treating coronavirus patients in Russia have mysteriously fallen out of their windows over the last few weeks, leading to speculation that the government is surreptitiously assassinating doctors who are speaking up about the worsening coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Doctors mysteriously falling out of windows
As previously reported, on April 24, Natalya Lebedeva, the chief of emergency medical services at a training base for Russian astronauts, fell out of a window at the hospital where she was being treated for a COVID-19 infection and died.
Yelena Nepomnyashchaya, the top doctor at a hospital in Siberia, fell out of the window of her fifth-floor office in the wake of a conference call with health officials and died on May 1 after a week in intensive care in what local authorities have called an accident.
Nepomnyashchaya was allegedly opposed to converting a ward in the hospital to house coronavirus patients because of a shortage of trained personnel and protective equipment, according to a local news report that cited anonymous sources.
The following day, ambulance doctor Alexander Shulepov fell from a second-floor window at the hospital where he worked and had been receiving treatment for coronavirus. He remains in critical condition with a fractured skull. Days before his fall, the doctor had raised his voice for being forced to work by his chief doctor despite testing positive for coronavirus.
Doctors executed for exposing Russia's coronavirus crisis?
Russian authorities are investigating all three incidents, and there is no official indication yet of what happened to the doctors. However, the circumstances around their falls, though, are more than a little suspicious, leading experts to believe that the Vladimir Putin-led government is ordering the assassinations of doctors who are speaking out about the failures of the country's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Russia has recorded more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases in each of the past three days; the country's confirmed total has eclipsed 165,000, with more than 1,500 deaths.
Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, believes the government is behind these mysterious "accidents."
"I would not be surprised if the security services were involved, sending a message to keep quiet on the crisis," Polyakova said. For some, this may sound like a conspiracy theory but killing people for questioning or criticizing the country's handling of the coronavirus is not as implausible as it may seem.
"It's not a conspiracy theory," Estonia's former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, tweeted on Tuesday, adding that throwing someone out of a window for speaking up has been a "long term practice." In his tweet, Ilves used the technical term for the act, "defenestrations."
This isn't the first time Russian officials have tried to kill adversaries by pushing them out of windows. In 2017, Russian lawyer Nikolai Gorokhov mysteriously fell from his fourth-floor apartment a day before he was to testify against the government in a Moscow court.
Gorokhov fractured his skull but survived the fall. That same year, the lawyer said in an interview that he suspected foul play. "This was no accident," he told NBC News. "Someone planned this, but unfortunately I do not remember the details." He refused to elaborate further, saying he feared for his life and for the safety of his family.
Bad reputation for killing people who speak up
Vladimir Putin and Russia are notorious for "silencing" critics with more elaborate means. For instance, in 2009, another Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was poisoned in prison, and some believe it's because he had uncovered a massive government-linked fraud scheme that threatened top officials.
In 2015, Boris Nemtsov, Putin's rival and the former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia was shot dead in Moscow. In the weeks before his death, Nemtsov expressed fears that Putin would have him assassinated. Three years later, two Russians tried to kill a former Kremlin spy living in the UK using a nerve agent.