×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 27, 2017

Last Thursday, Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian lawmaker who had fled to Ukraine and become a strident critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on a Kiev sidewalk in broad daylight. A few days earlier, Voronenkov had told The Washington Post that he and his wife knew they were in danger. "For our personal safety, we can't let them know where we are," he said. "The system has lost its mind. They say we are traitors in Russia."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the attack an "act of state terrorism by Russia," a charge Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed as a "fabrication."

Voronenkov is one of a handful of Putin critics and Russian diplomats who have died suddenly and sometimes mysteriously in the past few months. "I have an impression — I hope it's only an impression — that the practice of killing political opponents has started spreading in Russia," Gennady Gudkov, a former Russian lawmaker and security services officer, told The Moscow Times.

Two days before Voronenkov's murder, Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer for the family of Sergei Magnitsky — himself killed in police custody after uncovering $230 million in Russian government fraud — fell from his apartment window. Russian authorities say Gorokhov, who survived the fall, was trying to hoist a bathtub up to his apartment when he fell; Bill Browder, a financier who had hired Magnitsky, alleges that somebody pushed Gorokhov. In another apparent near-miss, Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza narrowly survived what appears to be a second poison attack.

On Dec. 26, Oleg Erovinkin, a former top Russian intelligence official and the chief-of-staff to Igor Sechin, the president of state-owned oil firm Rosneft, was found dead in his car on the streets of Moscow; no official cause of death has been given. There has been speculation that Erovinkin was the main source of the dossier on President Trump and Russia compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele.

Stranger still, since November, at least six Russian diplomats have died, some from gunshot wounds and others of apparent natural causes. Among these is Andrey Karlov, 62, the Russian ambassador to Turkey who was shot in an Ankara art gallery, and Vitaly Churkin, 64, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations who died in New York City. The New York Chief Medical Examiner's office said in mid-March that it would "not publicly disclose the cause and manner of death of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin" due to diplomatic protocols.

The deaths and near-deaths may well be totally unconnected. But it's sure a lot of coincidences. Peter Weber

8:47 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey closed out the show's 43rd season hosting a star-studded episode. Her 30 Rock costar, Alec Baldwin, returned once again as President Trump, and Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller reprised their recent appearances as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Trump attorney Michael Cohen, respectively.

But not every cameo happened in character: Jerry Seinfeld, Fred Armisen, Donald Glover, Anne Hathaway, Tracy Jordan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Rock, and more showed up for a meta bit about whether the show is disadvantaging newer cast members by bringing in so many celebrities for choice roles.

Watch the cold open and Fey's monologue below. Bonnie Kristian

8:30 a.m. ET
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

After extensive trade negotiations, Washington and Beijing said in a joint statement Saturday China will buy more American exports.

"To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services," the statement said. "This will help support growth and employment in the United States. Both sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports."

The statement did not specify the quantity or timeline of the increase, nor did it say whether China would be exempted from President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Rather, the "United States will send a team to China to work out the details." Bonnie Kristian

8:10 a.m. ET

President Trump tweeted Saturday evening in apparent response to Friday's news that an American academic working as an FBI informant met with several members of his 2016 campaign as part of the agency's then-beginning probe into Russian election meddling.

Friday's New York Times report about the informant said there is no evidence "the informant acted improperly" or that the inquiry was "politically motivated." Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has already subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents pertaining to the informant, and House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said Friday the FBI's actions, if reports are correct, are "as wrong as it gets." Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2018
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The 10 people killed in Friday's mass shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, were identified by Galveston County authorities Saturday: Sabika Sheikh, Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Shana Fisher, Kim Vaughan, Chris Stone, Cynthia Tisdale, Christian "Riley" Garcia, Jared Conard Black, and Kyle McLeod.

Perkins and Tisdale were substitute teachers; the other eight victims were Santa Fe students. Houston Texans player J.J. Watt has announced he will cover the cost of all 10 funerals.

Sheikh was an exchange student from Pakistan, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday sent his "deepest condolences" to her loved ones. "I don't blame the murder of my girl on American society but on that terrorism mindset that is there in all societies. We need to fight it all over the world," said her uncle, Ansar Sheikh. "I do ask the American government to make sure weapons will not be easily available in your country to anybody. Please make sure this doesn't happen again. It really hurts."

The suspect, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, has been arrested on multiple murder charges. He has given a statement "admitting to shooting multiple people" and reportedly told police he "did not shoot students he did like so he could have his story told." Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2018
Jim Watson/Getty Images

First lady Melania Trump returned to the White House Saturday morning after being hospitalized for surgery Monday to treat a "benign kidney condition."

"She is resting comfortably and remains in high spirits," said a statement from her staff. "Our office has received thousands of calls and emails wishing Mrs. Trump well, and we thank everyone who has taken the time to reach out."

The embolization procedure, which is designed to block blood flow to a benign tumor or other abnormal tissue growth, was completed without complications. Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2018

President Trump spent much of his first week in office making the demonstrably false claim that the crowd at his inauguration was the "biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches" — and the BBC has not forgotten. BBC Three, which offers programming aimed at young adult audiences, seized the occasion of the royal wedding on Saturday to send out a snarky tweet:

All joking aside, though the London crowd may look larger in the photos included in the tweet, Reuters UK has estimated only 100,000 people turned out to watch the wedding in person. If that figure is correct, the wedding crowd is substantially smaller than Trump's inaugural audience, which federal agency estimates put at about 800,000.

In television viewership, however, the wedding has the inauguration beat: Early reports say the nuptials were watched by up to 2 billion people worldwide; domestic TV viewership of Trump's inauguration was 31 million. Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2018
Stringer/Getty Images

European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel Arias Canete announced in Tehran Friday that the European Union will protect from U.S. sanctions European companies that continue to do business with Iran despite President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

This move comes at the behest of Iran deal signatories France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, which have sought to preserve the deal after America's exit. "We have sent a message to our Iranian friends that as long as they are sticking to the agreement the Europeans will ... fulfill their commitment," Canete said. "And they said the same thing on the other side."

"We hope [the EU's] efforts materialize," said Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, because "America's actions ... show that it is not a trustworthy country in international dealings." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran will stay in the deal as long as Iranian interests are "guaranteed by its non-American signatories ... In that case, getting rid of America's mischievous presence will be fine for Iran." Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads