Vladimir Osechkin, A human rights activist and vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, says he barely escaped an assassination attempt after he noticed a red dot from a hitman’s laser sight traveling across the wall of his home in France.
Osechkin, 41, the founder of Gulagu Net, an organization that exposed purported evidence of widespread torture and rape in Russian prisons last year, told Yulia Latynina, an independent journalist, that he nearly met his death last week in the city of Biarritz, a luxury French resort town, where he and his family have lived in self-imposed exile since 2015.
Osechkin was placed on Russia’s wanted list in November 2021 in connection with an unspecified crime, Newsweek reported.
More recently, Osechkin has documented some of Russia’s alleged efforts to recruit Russian inmates to fight in Ukraine. These efforts have largely been led by the infamous paramilitary organization, the Wagner group.
Osechkin spoke to Latynina via live videoconference on Tuesday, revealing that he had been warned that his life was in danger by Christo Grozev, a journalist with Netherlands-based group Bellingcat.
Grozev allegedly told him that a person with close ties to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and organized crime had left for Biarritz. Osechkin’s security team convinced him to leave for two days, as a precaution. The activist and his family returned home after a weekend trip to the mountains.
Osechkin claimed that his wife and children had returned from a local theater one evening when he saw something out of the corner of his eye, just before they were going to have dinner.
“I remember: I’m carrying plates to my kids in the living room, and in my peripheral vision, on one of the terraces, I see a red dot moving through the terrace railing along the wall towards me,” he told Latynina in Russian.
Osechkin and his family have received special training and have gone through drills preparing them for a possible attack, so they immediately killed the lights, lowered the blinds and dropped to the floor.
“My wife and kids spent about an hour in one of the more secure rooms.” he added.
Law enforcement officials were called to the scene, and Osechkin’s neighbors testified to hearing gunshots, he said.
“I wasn’t hit, but there were shots — the scope was moving towards me,” Osechkin stated.
The activist attributed his survival to the hitman’s “mistakes,” his own rapid response and a higher power.
“I’m not a religious person … but I believe in the goodness and the light,” he said. “Everything happened by the grace of God, beginning with Christo Grozev’s (tip).”
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