Circumstances of death

Svetlana Zheludeva felt unwell on the evening of May 9, 2008, and was first diagnosed with an acute respiratory disease. On May 12, 2008 she went into coma; all the efforts of the doctors at Sklifosovsky Institute of Medical Emergency were in vain, and five days later, on May 17, she died of acute liver failure that caused the failure of all vital organs. Svetlana’s family had the suspicions that her death was the result of poisoning, a murder, and insisted on investigation. The autopsy was performed on May, 19, but the Prosecutor’s Office received the autopsy and expert examination reports only two months later. The autopsy report states that the cause of death was “the fulminant liver failure of uncertain origin”, but the extract from this very report already contains the diagnosis “hepatitis B”, and all the conclusions have been since made on the basis of this extract.

Svetlana had never complained of any liver problems, and her family had no suspicions of this kind until her examination at the 31st Municipal Hospital. That is, in case it was hepatitis B, a disease known for decades already, in its extremely rare fulminant form (3 days), then all the doctors failed to diagnose it. Do they all lack qualification or is it criminal negligence? Or still poisoning?

On July 18, 2008 investigator D.V. Vasiliev (the Department of Interior Affairs, Investigation Committee of the Persecutor’s Office), on examining the materials of the case, passed the resolution not to carry out the investigation, as, presumably, there were no grounds for it. On July 31, 2008, Svetlana Zheludeva’s husband, George Gusev, made an appeal to the Prosecutor’s Office and the Investigation Committee; he expressed disagreement with the decision to stop the investigation: in his opinion, it was carried out superficially. On September 1, 2008 it was decided to continue the investigation of the case along the two main lines: forensic medical examination and analysis of death circumstances, and chemical analysis of the nano-powder Svetlana had received from Novosibirsk. By now (November 24, 2008) no official results have been obtained.

The mysterious powder

On May 6, 2008 two envelopes were delivered at the Institute of Crystallography – one addressed to the director, Mikhail Kovalchuk, the other to his deputy, Svetlana Zheludeva. The director had both the envelopes delivered to the deputy. On May 9 Svetlana dropped in at her office to water the flowers (it was an official day-off) and could open one of the envelopes. According to their sender, Sergei Bardakhanov (a scientist from Novosibirsk, leading researcher at the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics), the envelopes contained nanodimensional powder of silicon dioxide, a completely innocuous substance. Gennady Onishchenko (head of State Sanitary Inspecion Committee) declared that the expert examination of the powder stated its absolute harmlessness. In actual fact, chemical analysis had not been performed; the expert examination only stated the absence of anthrax bacillus. Sergey Bardakhanov had sent his powder to a number of scientists who were going to vote at the elections in Russian Academy of Sciences – it was a kind of PR campaign, as he was one of the candidates for a corresponding member position. Svetlana was also a candidate for such a position (on the whole, there were only 11 women among the 206 candidates) at the same department of RAS as Sergey Bardakhanov (the Department of Nanotechnologies and Information Technologies). The Assembly of General Council of RAS (May 28 – June 2 , 2008) decided to exclude Bardakhanov from the list of candidates, and to leave one of the corresponding member positions vacant – to commemorate Svetlana Zheludeva.