Three days after a massive blast punctured a key bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea in a Ukrainian “terrorist” attack on civilians, sources quoted in Russian media said one of the victims was no ordinary civilian at all.
Sergei Maslov, a judge at the Moscow Arbitration Court, is believed to have died in the blast along with three other people who were in the same vehicle with him: fitness trainer Gleb Orgetkin and Eduard Chuchakin and Zoya Sofronova, a married couple.
Work is reportedly still underway to identify the victims, but an emergency services source quoted by the Russian news agency TASS was quoted as saying that “available information” indicates Maslow was among those killed.
Maslov, who was 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 Maslow’s latest cases involved none other than Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s eldest daughter. Condé Nast’s Russian division reportedly filed a lawsuit in August against a fashion house headed by Chechen Culture Minister Aishat Kadyrova, although the publishing house unexpectedly dropped its lawsuit about two weeks later.
The press service of the Arbitration Court told the news agency that it had no “confirmed information” about Maslov’s death but was investigating the matter.
Maslov was reportedly on vacation at the time of his death; 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 – only leaked on Tuesday, raising suspicions among some journalists that authorities were trying to hold off his death under lock.
VChK-OGPU noted that Maslov differed from other judges in that he could not be bribed.
Russian officials and Kremlin propagandists had immediately blamed the bombing on Ukraine, which has not officially claimed responsibility but appeared to be celebrating the destruction of the bridge, widely seen as a symbol of Russia’s hold on the peninsula it gave to Ukraine in 2014 had stolen. Russian investigators have said a truck loaded with explosives caused the massive fireball on the $3.7 billion bridge, a claim some experts have questioned given the extensive damage.
The bombing was used by Russia’s Vladimir Putin to justify a series of airstrikes over Ukraine on Monday that killed at least 19 civilians, although Ukraine’s intelligence service said Russian military units received orders to carry out the brutal rocket attacks long before the Bridge over the Kerch Strait exploded.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was among the Putin loyalists who hailed the bombings, writing on Telegram that he was finally “100% satisfied” with Russia’s conduct of the war.