Russian dissident's suicide prompts Dutch investigation

A Russian opposition activist who was denied asylum by Dutch authorities was laid to rest amid ongoing controversy over his treatment in the Netherlands.

36-year-old Russian rocket engineer died in Rotterdam deportation centre

A portrait of Alexander Dolmatov is on display during a memorial ceremony in Moscow. The opposition parter member's death is under investigation. (Associated Press)

A Russian opposition activist, who committed suicide after his request for political asylum was turned down by Dutch authorities, was laid to rest Wednesday amid ongoing controversy over his treatment in the Netherlands.

Alexander Dolmatov, a 36-year-old rocket engineer, died in a Rotterdam deportation center last month. Dutch authorities are investigating his death, the exact cause of which has not yet been publicly released.

Dolmatov fled Russia fearing arrest after an opposition protest turned violent in May. He also reported coming under pressure from Russia’s security service, whose agents he claimed had threatened to get him fired from his job at a military plant. Immediately after he left for the Netherlands, the apartment where he lived with his mother was searched by police.

He went to the Netherlands believing he would quickly earn refugee status given concern in the West over a Kremlin crackdown on the opposition, his friends have been quoted as saying. But Russian prosecutors did not file charges against him, and Dutch authorities denied his asylum request. 

One participant in the May protest, which took place on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term, has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison and about a dozen others are awaiting trial. 

Dolmatov belonged to The Other Russia, a punkish and anti-globalist opposition party whose members have a cultish devotion to their leader, novelist Eduard Limonov. A few dozen surly, dark-jacketed members of the group came to pay their respects at Wednesday’s wake.

Limonov, who blames the Dutch authorities for Dolmatov’s death, said at the wake that he intended to "demand an investigation into what happened, because there are a lot of absolutely improbable circumstances coming up."

Suicide note feeds rumours

Numerous conspiracy theories have spread across the Russian blogosphere since Dolmatov’s death on Jan. 17. Opposition activists and bloggers have claimed his work designing missiles attracted the attention of Dutch security services, even though Dolmatov had the lowest possible clearance. Dolmatov himself had accused the Russian security services of trying to recruit him in 2008 and 2011. 

Confusion deepened when Russian media published his suicide note. In a hastily scribbled letter to his mother, Dolmatov wrote that he was killing himself "so as not to return as a traitor, having shamed everyone" because he had "betrayed an honest person, betrayed the security of our Motherland." 

The biggest question mark looms over the last few weeks of his life. His mother said she had trouble reaching him on the phone and at one point he went missing for five days. 

"He was in a strange state of drowsiness," his mother, Lyudmila Doronina, said Wednesday. "I once got through to him, he said, `I’m sleeping, I want to sleep,’ and it had never been like that. I understood something had gone wrong, and then it was all over."