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Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, is widely reported to be stepping down.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, is widely reported to be stepping down.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin has always been a source for commentary -- sometimes incendiary, sometimes head-scratching, always colorful.

The face of many of Russia's highest-profile criminal probes, Vladimir Markin, has been making headlines again.

Russian media was widely reporting on September 14 that the chief spokesman for the country's Investigative Committee was stepping down from the position. And although the anonymously sourced reports could not be confirmed, and Markin himself was not commenting, the news prompted speculation about where he could be headed.

He has always been a source for commentary -- sometimes incendiary, sometimes head-scratching, always colorful -- on subjects ranging from relations with the West, Russian soccer fans, the Olympic doping scandals, and many other issues.

Here are a few of the more eyebrow-raising quotations during his nine-year tenure with the Investigative Committee:

* On the investigation into the murder of opposition activist Boris Nemtsov, who was shot while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015:

"In this case the results of the accumulated evidence fully confirm the selfish motives of the accused in committing Nemtsov's murder; that is, a promised reward totaling at least 15 million rubles."

* On the need for an international investigation into the circumstances surrounding the U.S. landings on the moon, and the rock specimens of materials brought back to Earth, some of which were lost (Markin made this argument in the course of commenting on U.S. prosecutors conducting a criminal investigation into bribery at soccer's world governing body, FIFA):

"We are not contending that they did not fly [to the moon] and simply made a film about it. But all of these scientific, or perhaps cultural, artifacts are part of the legacy of humanity, and their disappearance without a trace is our common loss. An investigation will show what happened."

* On what he perceives to be a persistent international bias against Russia:

"Russophobia is like AIDS, an illness that is untreatable and fatal. You can only buy more time with painkillers and military psychosis stimulants, but the result is always the same -- self-destruction and shameful death."

* On the decision by world sporting authorities to bar scores of Russian athletes from competing in the Rio Olympic Games, and on the victories garnered by the Russians who were allowed to participate (Markin also coined a snarky Russian neologism aimed at the West by tweaking the term "Anglo-Saxon" to make it "Naglo-Saxon," which translates roughly as "Impudent-Saxon"):

"On the question of who won or lost in Rio, the answer is clear: Russia did not lose and showed character, while across the ocean, the initiators of this large-scale provocation lost the last vestiges of respect and trust, lost what is most important in the modern world -- their reputation."

* On French police's reaction to Russian soccer hooligans who attacked fans attending a Euro-2016 match in Marseille, France:

"A proper man as he's meant to be comes as an amazement to them [the police]. They're used to seeing the 'men' at gay parades...."

* On the arrest of former Kirov region Governor Nikita Belykh for allegedly receiving millions in bribes:

"They steal like adults and they [try to] explain like children. You get handed a bribe in front of witnesses: you should say: 'I have sinned. I will bear the consequences with utmost rigor.'"

The announcement of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's death was a long drawn-out affair, which caused headaches for many news editors. (file photo)

The announcement of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's death was a long drawn-out affair, which caused headaches for many news editors. (file photo)

The extreme official secrecy surrounding the condition of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, whose death was announced by the government on September 2, presented a certain conundrum for international news organizations: namely, when to report that the Central Asian autocrat had, in fact, died.

The extreme official secrecy surrounding the condition of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, whose death was announced by the government on September 2, presented a certain conundrum for international news organizations: namely, when to report that the Central Asian autocrat had, in fact, died.

The circumstantial evidence that Karimov had expired was ample well before formal confirmation of his death, from unidentified government sources, to foreign officials expressing condolences, to reported preparations for his burial in his native city of Samarkand.

But without the final word from Tashkent, media outlets had to make a call on whether to report Karimov's death as fact and pull the trigger on their queued-up obituaries of him.

Both Reuters and the Financial Times deemed the evidence of his death sound enough to publish obituaries hours before the Uzbek government's confirmation, with Reuters citing three unidentified "diplomatic sources." The FT and The Atlantic, meanwhile, hung their sourcing on Turkey's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, who said in televised remarks earlier in the day that Karimov had "passed away."

If the Uzbek government is to be believed, and Karimov was indeed declared dead at 8:55 p.m. local time in Tashkent, then Yildirim actually jumped the gun in announcing the Uzbek president's passing.

But for journalists following the strange saga, it was difficult to know what to believe coming out of Tashkent. The websites of both the Uzbek government and president's press service were inaccessible for much of the day, while Russian news agencies published contradictory reports.

Most notably, Russia's Interfax news agency issued a breaking news alert shortly before 7:30 p.m. Tashkent time with the headline: Uzbek Government Officially Reports President Islam Karimov's Death.

The item was quickly picked up by Western news agencies, including Reuters and dpa. But the state-owned Russian news agency RIA-Novosti subsequently cited an unidentified Uzbek cabinet official as denying that the government had issued such a statement.

Around 30 minutes later, Interfax withdrew the news item, citing a "technical error." The sequence also played out on Twitter, where Interfax first tweeted out the headline Uzbek President Islam Karimov Has Died and then, in a subtweet, wrote: "He Didn't Die!"


Reuters and dpa followed suit in yanking their reports, with dpa issuing its retraction with the subject line: "Kill Kill Kill."

When Uzbek state TV finally announced confirmation of Karimov's death, the Russian news website Slon.ru best encapsulated the bizarre manner in which the whole affair unfolded in the press with a news notification that read: "In Uzbekistan, This Time They REALLY DID announce Karimov's death."

With reporting by AP

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About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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