An exiled Russian human rights activist and critic of President Vladimir Putin claims to have survived an assassination attempt last week in the French city of Biarritz, noticing a red dot on the wall.
Vladimir Osechkin is the director of Gulagu Net, a Russian human rights organization that helps convicts and has published images inside Russian prisons allegedly showing torture and rape. Russian authorities placed him on a wanted list on November 11 last year for an unspecified crime.
Speaking to Russian freelance journalist Yulia Latynina, Osechkin said he was the target of an assassination attempt and evaded the attack because he noticed the red dot of the assassin’s gun on a wall next to him.
Osechkin, who has lived in France since 2015, said he was also warned about an impending assassination attempt by Bellingcat investigative reporter Christo Grozev, and that helped keep him and his family safe.
“I remember bringing plates to the kids and seeing in my peripheral vision a red dot moving in my direction over the balcony railing,” he said.
Osechkin said that as he and his family prepared for an assassination attempt, the family immediately turned off the lights and everyone fell to the ground.
“We had special training, we were warned and trained, that we should not hesitate and wait until we are riddled with bullets,” he said.
“Our lights went out immediately, the children fell on the floor. We lowered the blinds, the corresponding services arrived and an investigation began,” Osechkin continued. “The children and my wife spent about an hour in one of the protected rooms.”
Osechkin said his neighbors asked about the incident and heard gunshots.
“They didn’t hit me, they fired shots at me. Apparently the hitman’s mistakes or my lightning-fast reaction helped me survive. I accidentally saw the ‘dot’ with my side vision,” Osechkin said.
Osechkin said the suspected shooter was “a man with close ties to the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service] and organized crime.” He did not elaborate on whether the man had been detained, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
The human rights activist, a month before being placed in the register of wanted persons of the Russian Interior Ministry, released many videos allegedly showing convicts being tortured to force them to cooperate with FSB and prison service (FSIN) officials.
Following their release, more than 400 inmates issued statements alleging that they had been tortured, while several senior prison officials were fired and the head of the FSIN directorate in the Russian city of Saratov resigned.
news week has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry and the FSB for comment.