Investigative correspondent Erika Kinetz, reporters Lynn Berry and Jamey Keaten, and video journalist Daniel Kozin got unique access in the U.S. to hours of interviews with one of the few high-level elite Russian security officers around President Vladimir Putin to defect. Kinetz arranged access with the Dossier Center, finessing several changes to the run date for security reasons. The story showed how Putin’s paranoia and isolation is growing, while offering an intimate portrait of one man’s decision to defect — without even telling his mother. Berry combed through the interviews and helped with Russian translations and context. Keaten scored an insightful interview with another defector, which showed the financial and security burdens under which he lives. And Kozin put together the video. The story also stood out for the thoroughness of our efforts to confirm the defector’s identity and his escape story, with help from our Washington bureau, including Aamer Madhani, Matt Lee, Ken Guggenheim and Jeannie Ohm. The story was the most engaged story for the AP, despite major competing news and heavy interest continued the next day.