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  1. ITV Report

Suspicion grows over death of journalist investigating Russian mercenaries in Syria

Friends of a journalist who investigated Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria have expressed their suspicion over his mysterious death.

Maksim Borodin gained a reputation for exposes and it has been suggested his latest reporting may have led to his death.

Borodin died on April 14 from injuries sustained in a fall from his five-storey balcony in Yekaterinburg, eastern Russia.

The 32-year-old had reported on the death of Russian mercenaries working for the private firm Wagner in Syria. They had been killed in US airstrikes in February 2018.

It is believed the Russian government did not want the details of the mercenaries to be published. Credit: ITV News

He published information on those involved for the news service Novy Den.

His death has been ruled as suicide, but questions remain after there were no eyewitnesses and an autopsy report show no trace of alcohol or drugs in his system.

The balcony from where Borodin fell. Credit: ITV News

A friend told ITV News that he received a phone call from Borodin the evening before his death.

Vyacheslav Bashkov said, “It was five in the morning when he called and asked me to call a lawyer."

"He said there were people in camouflage outside his door. He thought at any moment they were going to come in and demand to search his apartment.”

Colleagues at Novy Den are in disbelief and have kept Borodin's desk clear. Credit: ITV News

It would not be the first violent death of a journalist in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

ITV News spoke to the son of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was shot dead in central Moscow in 2006.

Demonstrations followed the murder of Anna Politkovskaya - but her son believes nothing has changed.

She was a critic of the President and opposed the Chechen conflict.

Her son, Ilya, said, “I can tell you without question, the rights of journalists and freedom of speech have worsened in the decade since the death of my mother."

Borodin was buried beside his father - with colleagues placing newsprint and quills on his coffin. Credit: ITV News

On Wednesday, the German government called for an investigation into the journalist’s death.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said "it's not a good development if the space for critical and independent press in Russia gets smaller.”