On Wednesday evening, 49-year-old Russian actor Alexei Devotchenko was discovered dead in a pool of his own blood in Moscow. In recent years he had been a prominent and public critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Whether those facts are related, or if linking them would represent another instance of mistaking correlation for causation, wasn’t yet known as the news of Devotchenko’s passing spread Thursday.

Variety relayed word, culled from Russian sources, that at least one quoted “official” is considering the possibility that Devotchenko’s death was due to criminal activity. Meanwhile, The Guardian offered a mixed bag of reports and speculation:

The circumstances of his death were not immediately clear, but investigators told Russian news agencies that there were no signs of a violent death and that an autopsy was being carried out.

Fellow actor Stanislav Sadalsky wrote on his blog that, according to his information, Devotchenko had been murdered.

As well as taking part in dozens of anti-Kremlin protests over the past decade, Devotchenko, 49, had spoken out in defence of gay people facing increasing discrimination and criticised Moscow’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, praising protesters in Kiev seeking closer ties with the EU.

One report said the activist was found by a relative in a pool of his own blood after injuring himself while drunk. According to the Russian tabloid LifeNews, which has connections to the security services, Devotchenko had punched a glass cabinet in an intoxicated rage and badly wounded himself.

On Wednesday night, The Hollywood Reporter’s write-up included a similar array of potential explanations from parties who suggested Devotchenko had, however unintentionally, caused his own early demise:

The actor’s body was discovered on Wednesday in a rented apartment on the outskirts of Moscow. “No signs of foul play have been discovered,” a spokesperson for the state investigation committee was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.

The Interfax report also quoted an anonymous police source as saying that Devotchenko’s death occurred as a result of a freak accident when he fell down in a state of alcohol intoxication.

Last March, Devotchenko was among a group of artists to sign a letter condemning Russian military intervention in Ukraine, and he had also rallied for LGBTQ rights in his home country. As The Telegraph’s Tom Parfitt noted, Devotchenko made symbolic gestures of anti-Putin protest in rejecting state-sponsored acting awards and calling for artistic boycotts:

In 2011, the actor said he was renouncing two state acting prizes “received from Putin’s hands”, saying he was “ashamed”. “I’ve had enough of all this tsar-state stuff,” he wrote in a blog post. “With its lies, its cover-ups, its legalised theft, its bribe-taking and its other triumphs.”

A year earlier he had urged fellow actors, artists and musicians to boycott “ultra-patriotic, propagandistic, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic, or pro-Stalinist feature films and television projects” and “agitprop documentaries”.

He also called on them not to talk to “lying and tendentious state media” or to take part in Kremlin-linked banquets.

Money earned from such appearances, “smells of dank prison cells, of neglected hospitals and homeless shelters, of the acrid smoke of burnt-out architectural monuments and historical buildings and night clubs and homes for the elderly,” he said.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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