On March 30, 2017, Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent with expertise in Russian influence operations, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that following the money behind disinformation websites aimed at undermining American democracy was important. But, he continued, the committee should also “follow the trail of dead Russians.”
Last week, another body got added to the pile. Here’s the pertinent new entry on the Trump-Russia Timeline:
OCT. 3, 2018: Kremlin Lawyer Dies in Helicopter Crash
Russian deputy attorney general Saak Albertovich Karapetyan dies when his helicopter crashes in a forest during an unauthorized evening flight that began in adverse conditions. Karapetyan, 58, had been intimately familiar with some of the most notorious operations carried out under Vladimir Putin’s orders, according to The Daily Beast. He had worked closely with Natalia Veselnitskaya and was involved in running some of Moscow’s most high-profile efforts to thwart international investigations into Russia’s alleged crimes. For example, Karapetyan had signed a letter from the Russian government refusing to help the US in a civil case linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky. Leaked emails have since shown that Veselnitskaya had helped draft the document sent with that letter.
Several more Timeline entries fit Watts’ frightening theme:
NOV. 8, 2016: Russian Consulate Official Declared Dead
Russian-born Sergei Krivov, 63, is duty commander involved with security affairs at the Russian consulate in New York City when he dies mysteriously. At first, Russian officials say Krivov fell from the roof of the consulate building. Then they say he died of a heart attack. The initial police report filed on the day of the incident says Krivov had “an unknown trauma to the head.”
EARLY DECEMBER 2016: Russians Arrest Cybersecurity Expert
The arrests, according to reports by the Russian newspaper Kommersant and Novaya Gazeta, among others, are made in early December and amount to a purge of the cyberwing of the FSB, the main Russian intelligence and security agency.
DEC. 26, 2016: Russian Intelligence Officer Found Dead
Oleg Erovinkin, 61, is found dead in his car. He had been a general in the KGB and its successor spy organization, the FSB, before Putin appointed him chief of staff to Igor Sechin, president of Russia’s state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.
FEB. 20, 2017: Russian Ambassador to UN Dies Suddenly (this entry will be added in next week’s Timeline update)
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, 64, dies while at work in his New York office. The cause of death is not disclosed. In 1987, Churkin had helped to arrange Trump’s first visit to Moscow.
MARCH 2, 2017: Russian Behind Ukraine Meeting Dies
Alex Oronov, 69, a Ukrainian émigré businessman in New York, dies. “The cause of his death remains unknown,” USA Today reports in May. He reportedly had organized the January 2017 meeting among Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and Ukrainian parliament member Andrey Artemenko at the Manhattan Loews Regency Hotel about a peace plan for Ukraine.
MARCH 21, 2017: Magnitsky’s Lawyer Suffers Severe Injuries
Nikolai Gorokhov, 53, is near death with severe head injuries and remains in a hospital’s intensive care unit. Reportedly, he fell from the fourth floor of his Moscow apartment. Gorokhov is a private Russian lawyer who represents the family of Sergey Magnitsky and has continued work to uncover the tax fraud first identified by Magnitsky. After regaining consciousness, Gorokhov can’t recall what happened to cause his injuries, but he thinks he may have been targeted.
MAY 14, 2017: Peter Smith Found Dead
Ten days after telling The Wall Street Journal about his efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails during the 2016 election campaign, longtime GOP operative Peter Smith, 81, is found dead in a Rochester, MN hotel room. Around his head is plastic bag attached tightly with black rubber bands. In a note recovered at the scene, Smith apologizes to authorities and states: “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER”; “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017”; “LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”
In his September 2016 descriptive material seeking to recruit a team to help obtain Clinton’s emails, Smith had invoked the names of Mike Flynn, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Sam Clovis.
NOV. 1-2, 2017: Mifsud Gives an Interview; Disappears
Joseph Mifsud was George Papadopoulos‘ intermediary to the Kremlin. Mifsud disappears the day after an Italian newspaper publishes his Oct. 31, 2017 interview in which he confirms that he is the unnamed person identified in Papadopoulos’ Oct. 30 guilty plea.
FEB. 18, 2018: Former Russian Troll Farm Employee Arrested
Hours after granting interviews to Western journalists, a self-confessed “troll” who formerly worked at Russia’s Internet Research Agency — which special counsel Mueller had indicted two days earlier for 2016 election interference — is arrested in St. Petersburg for allegedly making a false phone call about a bomb planted in a nearby village.
APR. 11, 2018: Trump Architect Drops Out of Sight
In an attempt to follow up on an Apr. 6, 2018 article by McClatchy highlighting special counsel Mueller’s interest in Trump Organization business deals in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Georgia, a CNBC reporter reaches out to John Fotiadis, an architect involved in some of Trump’s major foreign projects in that region. Eight hours later, Fotiadis announces on Twitter that he is closing his firm; a few days after that, he closes his Twitter account; by the end of the week, all of the content from his website, including his portfolio, has been removed.
JUL. 11, 2018: Misfud is Still Missing
Joseph Misfud is scheduled to appear in a Salerno, Italy court, but he doesn’t show up. As of October 2018, he has yet to resurface.
Others have suggested that this list of suspicious deaths and disappearances relating to Trump, Putin, and the 2016 election may not be exhaustive. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but still….
Here’s a complete list of this week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline (including a new name filter and pop-up bubble for Peter Smith):
LABOR DAY WEEKEND 2016: Peter Smith Builds Team to Find Clinton Emails (revision of previous entry)
OCT. 11, 2016: GOP Operative Solicits Donors to Fund Acquisition of Clinton Emails
MAY 14, 2017: Peter Smith Found Dead (revision of previous entry)
SEPT. 26, 2018: Trump Blames China for Election Interference
OCT. 1, 2018: Comey Rejects Senate Judiciary Committee Request to Testify Privately, Offers to Testify Publicly
OCT. 1, 2018: Manafort Meeting with Mueller
OCT. 1, 2018: Credico Will Invoke 5thAmendment
OCT. 3, 2018: Kremlin Lawyer Dies in Helicopter Crash
OCT. 4, 2018: Pence Echoes Trump in Blaming China for Election Interference; Democrats Want Proof