Police found a gruesome scene in an apartment on the southwestern edge of Moscow on May 15. The previous evening, a man shot and killed his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter before turning his hunting rifle on himself.
Russia's Investigative Committee issued a dry statement: "It was established that the woman and her daughter were visiting an old friend, who took out a hunting rifle and shot them each at least two times. The mother and daughter died at the scene. After that, the man committed suicide."
Various media soon reported the gunman was a senior Foreign Ministry official named Aleksandr Shilin. The tabloid Moskovsky Komsomlets reported on May 15 that the ministry had confirmed those reports, but officially it has confirmed only that its employees were involved.
Shilin was a former first secretary in the ministry's Department on Security and Disarmament and served at the Russian embassies in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the United States, Austria, and Indonesia. The adult victim was reportedly a former Foreign Ministry employee who worked under Shilin.
According to a police officer at the murder scene who was quoted by the website Dni.ru, "various absurd and incomprehensible writings" were found in the apartment. Police also found four hunting rifles, including the murder weapon, and six boxes of ammunition on the scene.
Visions Of A Violent Future
One person who said she was shocked but not surprised at the news was blogger and radical-leftist activist Lyubava Malysheva (who is an occasional contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service). She has been following Shilin's social-media persona and his diplomatic career since 2009, when she received an anonymous letter from his official e-mail address. Although the writer coyly declined to sign the letter, the e-mail address and identifying details in the letter regarding the author's education and training made it easy to establish Shilin's identity, Malysheva said.
At the time, Malysheva and other leftist activists had organized a program called Food, Not Bombs under which they were feeding homeless people at train stations and advocating the position that Russia should spend more on social programs and less on the military.
Shilin's letter, which Malysheva published in full on her website in 2009 and again on RFE/RL's Russian Service website in 2014, was an emotional counterargument that raised many themes that have become increasingly mainstream in Russia in the ensuing years.
"My postulate is that, under the current circumstances, the only thing that will save our nation from defeat in the global fight for survival is militarization," Shilin wrote.
He sees a world on the brink of a new global war. "Within a few years, we will see a new division of the world very much like what happened around World War II, only on a larger scale. And only those who emerge among those powers that are victorious in this fatal and inevitable battle will rule the world," Shilin wrote. "Personally, I want our long-suffering Motherland to be among those victors."
He went on to write that people like Malysheva "are working into the hands of our numerous enemies, who cleverly use various pacifist organizations, including yours. In the U.S. National Security Agency there is a whole department busy working with international pacifist and 'green' organizations, including sending agents into all sorts of movements like yours."
Under Diplomatic Cover
Most alarmingly for Malysheva, Shilin wrote in his letter that "I would like to point out that in our ministry, not only many people, but a majority of people, hold views analogous to mine."
That assertion was virtually impossible to test, of course.
But in 2014, Malysheva decided to learn more about Shilin and to see if he was still thriving at the Foreign Ministry. She found his social-media accounts, in which he lauded Russia's 2014 occupation and annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and other policies of President Vladimir Putin.
The accounts also featured numerous photographs of Shilin in exotic locations, standing with rifle in hand over the carcasses of big-game animals: a hippopotamus, a leopard, a Nile crocodile, and more.
One photograph shows him with a small wild pig. "I wasted this wild piglet yesterday," the Russian disarmament expert wrote. "This is a South Korean pneumatic 12.7 mm. Crazy! God only knows how many joules it is, but definitely less than my Moscow .375 HH Mag. I put two bullets into that swine, but it wasn't enough for him -- I had to finish him with my knife."
Moskovsky Komsomolets quoted an unidentified acquaintance of Shilin's as saying that "he constantly and in depth told how he killed various animals, how they suffered -- he told in great detail the process of the hunt and sent his friend those horrible photos of dead animals. He could talk about his passion for hunting for hours. Naturally, not everyone liked that. So gradually he lost almost all his friends."
Malysheva says she was not surprised to see Shilin's name in the news again. "If a sick man, under the protection of diplomatic immunity, is traveling around the world with his hateful ideas and weapons, the finale is predictable," she told RFE/RL.
"The real question is will we find out about other crimes [committed by diplomats] or will they remain forever hidden in the state archives. Only rarely do stories about the bestiality of our diplomats get into the media. Rapes, human trafficking, murders, violence -- everything that is forbidden to ordinary people. But it is very difficult, nearly impossible, to hold people protected by diplomatic immunity to account."