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Russian Judge Linked to Top Putin Ally Allegedly Killed in Bridge Bomb

Anadolu Agency via Getty
Anadolu Agency via Getty

Three days after a huge explosion tore through a key bridge linking Russia to occupied Crimea in what the Kremlin deemed a Ukrainian “terrorist” attack against civilians, sources cited in Russian media say one of the victims was no ordinary civilian at all.

Sergei Maslov, a judge of the Moscow Arbitration Court, is said to have died in the blast along with three other people who were in the same vehicle with him: fitness instructor Gleb Orgetkin and Eduard Chuchakin and Zoya Sofronova, a married couple.

Work is reportedly still underway on identifying the victims, but a source in the emergency services cited by Russia’s TASS news agency was quoted saying that “available information” indicates Maslov was among those killed.

Maslov, appointed to the court by Putin back in May 2014, had reportedly overseen several high-profile cases involving the Moscow government and oil and gas companies.

Several independent Russian news outlets, including Taiga.info and VChK-OGPU, report that one of Maslov’s last cases involved none other than the eldest daughter of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The Russian division of Condé Nast had reportedly filed suit against a fashion house headed by Chechen Culture Minister Aishat Kadyrova in August, though the publishing house unexpectedly dropped their complaint about two weeks later.

Putin’s Close Ally Joins War Hours After Revenge-Bombs

The press service of the arbitration court told the news outlet they had no “confirmed information” on Maslov’s death, but said they were looking into the matter.

Maslov was reportedly on vacation at the time he was killed; he is said to have owned property in Crimea. In the immediate aftermath of the blast, Russian investigators were quick to announce that three civilians had been killed, while news of the fourth death–that of Maslov–didn’t trickle out until Tuesday, fueling suspicions among some journalists that authorities were attempting to keep his passing under wraps.

VChK-OGPU noted that Maslov stood out from other judges in that he was impossible to bribe.

Russian officials and Kremlin propagandists alike had immediately pinned the bombing on Ukraine, which did not officially claim responsibility but seemed to celebrate the destruction of the bridge, widely seen as a symbol of Russia’s grip on the peninsula it stole from Ukraine in 2014. Russian investigators have said a truck packed with explosives caused the massive fireball on the $3.7 billion bridge, a claim that some experts have questioned in light of the extensive damage.

The bombing was used by Russia’s Vladimir Putin to justify a series of airstrikes across Ukraine on Monday that killed at least 19 civilians, though Ukrainian intelligence said Russian military units had received instructions to carry out the brutal missile attacks long before the Kerch Strait Bridge blew up.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was among the Putin loyalists who cheered on the bombings, writing on Telegram that he was now finally “100% satisfied” with Russia’s handling of the war.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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