The Long Arm of the Lawless

According to an article in The Atlantic, “Sudden Russian Death Syndrome”, rich, influential people around Vladimir Putin and in the greater Russian orbit seem to have developed a nasty habit of getting dead. In case the hyperlink above brings you to a paywall, here’s an excerpt from the article that lists a few of the 24 or so folks who bought the farm in 2022:

The bodies of the gas-industry leaders Leonid Shulman and Alexander Tyulakov were found with suicide notes at the beginning of the year … in the span of one month, three more Russian executives — Vasily Melnikov, Vladislav Avayev, and Sergey Protosenya — were found dead, in apparent murder-suicides with their wives and children. In May, Russian authorities found the body of the Sochi resort owner Andrei Krukovsky at the bottom of a cliff; a week later, Aleksandr Subbotin, a manager of a Russian gas company, died in a home belonging to a Moscow shaman … In July, the energy executive Yuri Voronov was found floating in his suburban St. Petersburg swimming pool with a bullet wound in his head … In August, the Latvia-born Putin critic Dan Rapoport apparently fell from the window of his Washington, D.C., apartment … right before Ravil Maganov, the chairman of a Russian oil company, fell six stories from a window in Moscow … the IT-company director Grigory Kochenov toppled off a balcony … in the French Riviera, a Russian real-estate tycoon took a fatal tumble down a flight of stairs.

Uncle Vlad’s reaction, of course, was predictable: “На кого я похож Джека Кеворкяна? Что я знаю от умерших людей? Они должны были лучше заботиться о себе.” (Translation: “Who do I look like, Jack Kevorkian? What do I know from dead people? They should have taken better care of themselves.”)

Collateral Shmollateral

Many of those who fell out of windows and drowned with bullets in their heads opposed Uncle Vlad’s military exercises in Ukraine. From the standpoint of manners and common courtesy (ignoring any humanitarian conventions, politics, territorialism, empire-building, and theatrics) Uncle Vlad sees nothing wrong with taking territory militarily and killing Ukrainian military personnel, civilians, and children. If you want to grow a beard, you have to get some hair on your face, right?

All the lives lost, Ukrainian and Russian, are just so many whiskers to Uncle Vlad. Besides, if you attach your legacy to trying to reclaim all the territory of the former Soviet Union — roughly 8,649,500 square miles — a few buildings will have to be bombed and some blood will have to be spilled. And if some of that blood also turns out to be Russian, well, that’s just quibbling.

What a Croc

Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” It’s helpful to remember if it slithers like a crocodile, if it has the narrow eyes of a crocodile, and if it preys like a crocodile, it’s probably a crocodile. It’s also helpful to remember the reptilian brain of a crocodile isn’t big on discernment and prioritization. If it’s hungry, it eats.

Uncle Vlad’s hungry. No one knows for sure what it will take to satisfy his appetite. But it’s a pretty safe bet he won’t be sated by Ukraine’s mere 230,000 square miles. It’s equally safe to assume that as long as the West continues to appease him, he’ll keep on eating.

As the article in The Atlantic goes on to say:

This year’s spate of deaths — so brazen in their number and method as to suggest a lack of concern about plausible, or even implausible, deniability — is quite possibly Putin’s way of warning Russia’s elites that he is that deadly octopus. The point of eliminating critics, after all, isn’t necessarily to eliminate criticism. It is to remind the critics — with as much flair as possible — what the price of voicing that criticism can be.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met a crocodile yet who was concerned about deniability. Sooner or later, this one’s going to have to be restrained.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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