MOSCOW — A Russian journalist who had reported recently on clandestine Russian paramilitary groups in Syria died on Sunday after falling from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment in Yekaterinburg, the authorities there said.
The journalist, Maksim Borodin, 32, was hospitalized in a coma after he was found sprawled out below his balcony in the city’s Kirov district on Thursday, according to New Day, the local news agency where he had worked. On Sunday morning, he died.
Investigators summoned to the scene had found the door to his apartment locked from the inside, a police spokesman, Valery Gorelykh, told the local E1 news agency. “Those facts suggest that no one left the apartment and that there were probably no strangers there,” he said.
While the police are still investigating Mr. Borodin’s death, it is not being treated as suspicious, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Yet in a country where opposition activists and muckraking journalists are routinely attacked and sometimes killed in connection with their work, that assertion was met with derision in some quarters. The doubters pointed to a telephone call Mr. Borodin made the day before he fell.
In the call early Wednesday, he told a friend, Vyacheslav Bashkov, that there was a man with a gun on his balcony, and that several others in masks and camouflage clothing were lurking in the stairwell leading to his apartment. In an interview, Mr. Bashkov said that Mr. Borodin had called back an hour later and said he had been mistaken and that he thought the armed men were probably taking part in a training exercise.
Around the same time, Mr. Borodin reached out to another friend, Yulia Fedotova, about the armed men surrounding his apartment. But in a telephone interview, Ms. Fedotova urged caution about assigning blame for his death.
“Let’s switch on our logic here,” she said. “Why would someone break into his apartment in broad daylight and throw him off his balcony? Even if some serious people wanted him dead, they would know that a person can survive such a fall.”
Mr. Borodin was known as intrepid reporter who sought out politically sensitive topics. To take one example, he wrote last summer about efforts by radical Orthodox Christian activists in Yekaterinburg to thwart the release of “Matilda,” a Russian movie about Nicholas II that stoked a culture war in Russia.
In February and March, New Day published several dispatches by Mr. Borodin from the town of Asbest, home to several men who had left for Syria to fight in the ranks of the Wagner Group, a secretive paramilitary organization with murky ties to the Kremlin that suffered dozens of fatalities after an attack on United States forces in Syria in February.
Several news outlets, including CBS and The New Yorker, have reported that the Wagner Group has ties to Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, an oligarch nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” who was indicted in February by the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election. The indictment says that Mr. Prigozhin oversaw a sprawling troll factory that waged “information warfare against the United States.”