By Olav Albuquerque
RUSSIANS seem to be in the news this week with a Russian chief engineer on board the ship M.B. Aldnah, which was on the way to Mumbai from Chittagong in Bangladesh via Paradip in Orissa, dying of a heart attack. In December, there were two mysterious deaths, perhaps murders, of the Russian lawmaker and Putin critic, Pavel Antov, at a hotel in Odisha’s Rayagada district. His death was preceded by the death of his friend, Vladimir Bidanov on December 21, 2022. His body was surrounded by liquor bottles.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin is known to be a cold and remorseless KGB-trained professional, with his walk giving away the fact that he was trained to carry an automatic rifle under his left arm which appears bent at the elbow. This angled left arm has developed due to the continuous cradling of perhaps an AK-47. Putin has the reputation of cracking down on dissenters and ordering their cold-blooded murder for opposing him. .
Why this should interest Goa and Goans is because there is a sizable Russian tourist influx with most of these nationals, being totally above-board and eager to swim and sun bathe on Goa’s beaches. But there are exceptions and it a huge segment of Russian nationals who are engaged in drug-trafficking and illegal land deals. Some of them have the backing of powerful ministers in Goa, so they can break the law with impunity.
RUSSIAN LAWMAKER PAVEL ANTOV
PAVEL Antov, the Russian lawmaker who opposed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, was a Christian who was sojourning in Odisha. He had posted a tweet about a woman’s corpse being pulled out of the rubble during the Ukraine invasion. A few days before he died or was murdered, the body of his friend, Vladimir Bydanov, was found lying on the bed. The room in which the duo were staying was accessible from outside.
India does not want to antagonize Vladimir Putin and so both the deaths were conveniently glossed over with the bodies being cremated. This destroys the primary evidence because a second autopsy might have revealed if there was an unnatural death. But the investigative agencies will have to go by the old autopsy reports and the evidence collected by the local police who may be incompetent or under orders not to go too deep into these mysterious deaths. Despite a show of approaching the Interpol, it seems likely our investigative agencies will file a closure report saying there is no evidence to conclude the two Russians were murdered.
The KGB was succeeded by the Federal Security Service which took over all the records of its predecessor. The KGB reigned supreme until 1991 when it was dissolved after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But to return to the mysterious death of 51-year-old Sergy Milyakov, the chief engineer of the ore-laden ship, he may have died of a heart attack. The statements of his crew members were recorded by the police after a delay of some hours because the body had to be brought from the ship which was berthed some distance away, according to the Paradip Port Trust chairman, P.L. Haranadh. When asked questions, he refused to elaborate on the ship and other crew members.
Following routine procedure, the CID seized Pavel Antov’s smartphone, laptop, and passport after he fell – or was pushed off—from the terrace of the hotel where he was staying. The sleuths also took samples from the ashes and bone fragments of both Russians. And to assuage the speculation of mysterious agents bumping off the Russian oligarch, affirmed they would seek Interpol’s help to probe Pavel’s death. The sleuths questioned assistant sub-inspector S.K. Singh who was the first to visit the hotel after the death of Bidenov and three ambulance drivers.
Why should all this interest Goa and Goans? Simply because the Russians have formed a congregation of their own in Morjim village. This is why Morjim village has come to be known as “Little Russia,” because of the Russian immigrants living there. Russian tourists regularly visit Arambol, Querim aka Keri, Mandrem, Anjuna, and Morjim villages in north Goa where they promote their own food and culture.
RUSSIANS visit Goa as tourists to escape the harsh weather conditions in their own country and take part in the big music festivals and rave parties that Goa is known for. It is a known fact that cheap drugs and alcohol at these rave parties attract Russians and others from the Commonwealth of Independent States which emerged after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
On an average about 300,000 and 400,000 tourists arrive from Russia and the Ukraine, annually. But now these numbers have fallen drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic which was followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Festivals such as the Sunburn festival were in the news when an alleged drug-dealer, Shailesh Shetty, was arrested under the provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. He was again arrested in a separate case for allegedly being the mastermind in the Vilas Mether murder case. In this case, an activist, Vilas Mether, was burnt to death by three men on the alleged instructions of Shailesh Shetty.
It would be wrong to say that all Russians who visit Goa are seeking drugs and sex. But the younger lot do so and they are the ones who fall prey to the notorious drug mafia. While Pavel Antov could have been assassinated by the Russian Secret Service, some of the youngsters who visit Goa, get into the wrong company and fall prey to local criminals.