Tuesday, June 11, 2024

D.C. police close probe into death of Putin critic, but questions remain

D.C. police said Wednesday they have closed their investigation into the death of an international investment banker and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin after an autopsy found the businessman died of trauma due to a fall but listed the manner of his death asundetermined.”

The less-than-definitive ruling in the death of Dan K. Rapoport leaves unanswered questions about the moments before he was found fatally injured on Aug. 14 in front of his apartment building at 2400 M Street NW, in the District’s West End. Police had responded to a call there for a person who had reportedly jumped off the roof.

Police have said they do not suspect foul play. On Wednesday, the police department’s chief spokesman, Dustin Sternbeck, said, “Currently there is not an ongoing investigation into this matter.” He added that the status could be reevaluated should additional information or evidence become available. No other details were provided.

Rapoport’s death sparked significant interest, particularly abroad, with some noting that critics of Putin have previously been attacked or met untimely deaths. Rapoport voiced support for Ukraine and criticism of Putin on his Facebook page.

He was found outside the 2400 M Apartments, a nine-story luxury complex with a rooftop pool located near Foggy Bottom, where the State Department is located, and Georgetown, an upscale neighborhood. A manager at the apartment building declined to comment and would not allow a reporter access.

A police report says Rapoport had $2,620 in cash, a Florida drivers’ license, a cracked cellphone, a lanyard for keys, a black hat and orange flip-flops. He died at a hospital.

In a statement, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Rapoport died of “multiple blunt force injuries due to a fall from height.” The manner of death was ruled undetermined, and the type was listed as “sudden/unexplained.”

The medical examiner’s statement says that undetermined is used “when there is insufficient information to assign another manner.” Those other categories include homicide, suicide, and accidental and natural causes. Authorities declined to elaborate or make the autopsy report public.

Rapoport’s wife, Alyona, did not respond to a message sent through Facebook. In an earlier posting on that social media site, she described herself as “heartbroken” over her husband’s death.

According to news accounts, Rapoport had been a successful businessman in Moscow and had run a company based in D.C. called Rapoport Capital, which was founded in 2012. He had lived in D.C. and moved to Ukraine around 2017. He returned to D.C. last spring, a few months after Russia invaded its neighbor.

David Satter, an author on Russian history and former foreign correspondent there who has taught at universities and had met with Rapoport, questioned how police could close their investigation without a definitive ruling from the medical examiner.

“I personally find his death very suspicious,” Satter said Wednesday.

Satter said he called Rapoport’s wife on Wednesday and said she told him she is not yet ready to speak publicly. He said the wife told him she does not yet have a copy of the autopsy report.

Yuri Somov, an interpreter and close friend of Rapoport and his family, said he does not believe Rapoport was killed in a state-sponsored attack. He noted Rapoport had lived and survived in Moscow as a businessman in the 1990s, when such occupations could be perilous, and then in Ukraine, a short distance from the Russian border.

“He was a very successful businessman at a very dangerous time in essentially a lawless country,” said Somov, who lives in the District and, along with Satter, had previously been interviewed about Rapoport by Politico. “You didn’t have to do anything wrong or questionable to be squeezed, or to disappear, or die.”

After Rapoport left Kyiv and returned to the United States earlier this year, Somov noted, his friend didn’t hide “in the middle of nowhere” but resided “in downtown D.C.,” where a state-sponsored killing is “exponentially more challenging.”

Somov described Rapoport as generous and thoughtful, and despite being a businessman, also a “complete romantic” — pursuits not generally seen as compatible.

He said he had contact with Rapoport in late June, when they texted about meeting for lunch. Rapoport canceled when he had to drive to an airport to pick up his dog, flown in from Ukraine. Then Somov went on vacation, he said.

They never got to lunch.

“I kept thinking about how I should not have procrastinated after I came back from the beach with my 8-year-old,” Somov said. “I thought, ‘I’ll call him next week.’ Then next week. Three weeks later, he’s gone.”

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