‘We couldn’t help him in time’ The Perm Krai’s top investigative official was found dead in a suspected suicide. Sources connect his death to pressure over a recent university shooting.

Russian Investigative Commitee

On September 25, a funeral was held in Perm for Sergey Sarapultsev, the late chief of the Perm Krai Investigative Department (the regional branch of the Russian Investigative Committee). Reports about Sarapultsev’s death emerged two days earlier. According to unoffical sources, Sarapultsev died by suicide. The news site VKurse reported that he was found dead at his cottage by his driver. And according to the online outlet Life, his body showed signs of strangulation. The Investigative Committee only confirmed that an investigation had been launched into the cause of death. At the funeral, Sarapultsev’s widow said that her late husband “served until the end” and that “something inside him broke” after the university shooting in Perm, which took place just days before his death. 

A ‘dressing down’ 

Following Sergey Sarapultsev’s death, the Telegram channel Mash reported that two possible versions of his alleged suicide were being considered. According to one version, Sarapultsev allegedly hanged himself after a meeting with the Investigative Committee’s leadership concerning the mass shooting that took place on a university campus in Perm on September 20. According to the “primary” version, as per Mash, Sarapultsev allegedly took his own life due to “family problems.” Unnamed sources also told Interfax and TASS that the investigator’s supposed suicide wasn’t connected to his work (or the shooting at Perm State University, a source in law enforcement specifically told TASS). 

Investigative Committee Chief Alexander Bastrykin travelled to Perm in the aftermath of the university shooting. He visited Perm State University, met with the victims, and held a meeting about the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attack. Sources in the Investigative Committee told the Telegram channel Baza that Sarapultsev committed suicide after receiving a “dressing down” from Bastrykin himself. Baza’s sources claimed that after Bastrykin’s arrival in Perm, several local investigators were taken off all cases and internal checks were launched, which resembled searches. 

Sources who were present at the meeting said Bastrykin “tore a strip off Sarapultsev, like a little boy.” According to Baza, Bastrykin leveled accusations against Sarapultsev in front of his subordinates, “saying that the poor work of local investigators was to blame” for what happened at the university. “Sarapultsev, according to sources, tried to object, [saying] that ‘investigators had nothing to do with the case,’ which infuriated Bastrykin even more. In the end, soon after the meeting, Sarapultsev went home and committed suicide,” Baza wrote.

“As far as I know, the meeting really wasn’t a pleasant one,” a source in the Investigative Committee told the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The source added that the investigation into the shooting at Perm State University is now being handled solely by Investigative Committee specialists from Moscow. 

‘Bastrykin had complaints for a long time’

Sources told Ura.ru and Komsomolskaya Pravda that Sarapultsev was facing problems at work long before the university shooting. “Bastrykin had complaints about the Investigative Committee’s Investigative Department for the Perm Krai and Sergey Sarapultsev personally for a long time — more than a year. Even before Bastrykin’s visit to Perm, his auditors from the central office flew in and conducted a check of [their] colleagues’ work,” an insider told Ura.ru. 

Both news outlets reported that Bastrykin’s complaints had to do with the department’s failure to properly investigate cases involving defrauded shareholders. The Investigative Committee’s internal audit of its Perm branch is still ongoing. That said, sources told Kommersant that Bastrykin’s criticism is largely unfounded because such cases are outside of the Investigative Committee’s jurisdiction. “How the Investigative Committee could restore [defrauded shareholders’] rights is altogether incomprehensible. Such a case can end up in the [hands of] the Investigative Committee only by the decision of a public prosecutor,” one source explained to Kommersant. 

According to the local news site 59.ru, Sarapultsev was appointed a new deputy from Moscow a few months ago. One source told 59.ru that there were rumors that this “Muscovite” — who supposedly holds a higher rank — was being prepped to take over as Sarapultsev’s replacement. 

‘He wanted to serve his own region’

Sergey Sarapultsev was 54 years old. According to VKurse, he was married and the father of two children. In the 1980s, he studied at the Perm Higher Military Command and Engineering School, but he retrained as a lawyer in the 2000s. Sarapultsev became an investigator in the Perm Prosecutor’s Office in 2004 and joined the Investigative Committee’s Perm branch in 2007, as the deputy head of the investigation department for particularly important cases. 

Sarapultsev was awarded the Investigative Committee’s “Courage and Valor” medal in 2008, shortly after closing the case of the “Solikamsk Shooter.” Sarapultsev led the investigative team that identified serial killer Alexander Gerashchenko, a warrant officer in the Emergency Situations Ministry who murdered his victims to obtain their weapons. (Gerashchenko was found guilty of committing seven murders and sentenced to life in prison). 

Sarapultsev took up the post of deputy head of Perm Krai Investigative Department in 2009. In 2011, he was transferred to the same post in the Irkutsk Region, but he returned to the Perm Krai two years later. A source told Novaya Gazeta that Sarapultsev wanted to come home: “He was a Perm Krai native and fundamentally wanted to serve his own region.”

Sarapultsev became the head of the Prem Krai’s Investigative Committee branch in 2018. According to Novaya Gazeta, in the years that followed, his department handled three criminal cases that resonated at the federal level. The first concerned a knife attack on a teacher and fourth grade students at a Perm school; the second was a hooliganism case launched over a protest action involving a Putin mannequin dressed up in a prisoner’s uniform; and the third was a negligence case launched over the death of a 14-year-old girl. 

A cool-headed investigator

In conversation with Baza, Sergey Sarapultsev’s subordinates called him a good leader. In turn, Kommersant wrote that he was a tough boss, but defended his employees before upper management. A Novaya Gazeta source described Sarapultsev as a “thoughtful” investigator with a “cool head.” The Perm Krai’s Ombudsman Pavel Mikov said that he knew Sarapultsev as “a loving father, husband, and the owner of a hospitable home.” The deceased was distinguished by his “tremendous sense of duty and dedication,” wrote former State Duma lawmaker Igor Sapko.

In May 2021, Sergey Sarapultsev took part in reciting poems to commemorate to Victory DayNatalie Pisarevskaya

Ksenia Markarova, the head of a search-and-rescue unit in Perm described him as a polite and considerate person. “I’ve never heard him shout, [or] use obscene language towards employees or anyone else, although search activities take place in very stressful conditions,” she said. “To the words ‘We won’t sleep for three days,’ he calmly replied ‘I won’t sleep [either], we’ll endure!” 

If Sergey Sarapultsev’s death is ruled a suicide, it will be the first case of the leader of an regional Investigative Committee branch taking his own life, Kommersant noted. “This is such an egregious incident that a [criminal] case needs to be launched on incitement to suicide,” a friend of Sarapultsev told Kommersant, speaking anonymously. 

‘Something inside him broke’

Sergey Sarapultsev’s funeral took place in the concert hall of the Perm Krai Philharmonic on September 25. Around 200 people attended the service, reported local news outlet 59.ru. Speaking at the funeral, Sarapultsev’s widow Olga said that he was a “good man” who “served until the end.” “This week I didn’t see him from Monday to Wednesday. He slept six hours in three days,” she recalled, referring to the days after the university shooting.

“He was strong, something inside him broke. Obviously he wasn’t able any longer. This did something to him. […] I love him so much, I didn’t need these titles or money, I needed him. [..] He served until the end. And this last event that happened, it overlapped everything, the nerves, this shouldn’t have happened, it’s not him. It’s as if someone told him [to]. Because he even wrote a note, he asked God to forgive him.” 

“Unfortunately, we missed something somewhere, we didn’t notice his inner anguish and couldn’t help him in time,” said Dmitry Anashchenko, who became the acting head of the Perm Investigative Committee branch following Sarapultsev’s death. 

On September 24, Kommersant published the text of Sergey Sarapultsev’s suicide note, in which he allegedly wrote that he had “lived enough,” but didn’t offer any explanation for his actions. In the same article, Kommersant claimed that Sarapultsev wasn’t facing any problems at work and speculated that he may have had a “latent mental illness.” A source close to Sarapultsev told 59.ru that the article was “evidently paid for” and vehemently denied claims that the deceased was mentally ill. 

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

I’m with you, Meduza

Story by Olga Korelina

Abridged translation by Eilish Hart


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