Updated: A list of oligarchs and Putin critics found dead since Ukraine war

Updated: A list of oligarchs and Putin critics found dead since Ukraine war

Aleksandar Brezar  & David Mac Dougall  with AP


Russian President Vladimir Putin seen through a bus window, which reflects sky and clouds, during his visit to Kaliningrad in July 2005 – Copyright AP Photo

Another mysterious death among Russian top executives last week drew further attention to the ever-increasing number of suspicious demises among the oligarchs and critics of President Vladimir Putin, raising questions on whether they have become all too common to be completely coincidental.

Ivan Pechorin, a top manager at the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, was found dead in Vladivostok after allegedly falling off his luxury yacht and drowning near Cape Ignatyev in the Sea of Japan two days before, according to the local administration.

“On September 12, 2022, it became known about the tragic death of our colleague, Ivan Pechorin, Managing Director for the Aviation Industry of the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic,” a statement from the company said.

Pechorin is said to have been tasked with modernising Russia’s aviation industry and worked directly under Putin.

Earlier this year, the company’s 43-year-old general director Igor Nosov also died from a reported stroke after taking over the reins in May 2021.

Meanwhile, another aviation expert died under strange circumstances: the former head of the Moscow Aviation Institute Anatoly Gerashchenko was pronounced dead after falling down “several sets of stairs” on Wednesday, according to a statement issued by the institute.

Geraschenko led the institute — which closely collaborates with the Russian Ministry of Defence and has aided the development of the likes of MiG fighter jets — until 2015, but it is believed to have remained in an advisory role since.

vil Maganov, died in what Russian news agencies cited as an accidental fall from a hospital window.

Initially, a statement by his company Lukoil said Maganov “passed away after a severe illness” on 1 September but did not give further details.

Russian news reports later stated his body was found on the grounds of Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital, where Russia’s political and business elite are often treated.

Maganov appeared to have fallen from a sixth-story window, the reports said. Some sources claimed he tripped and fell while smoking, stating a pack of cigarettes was found by the window. The news site RBK also said police were investigating the possibility of suicide.

Lukoil was one of a few Russian companies to publicly call for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling in March for the “immediate cessation of the armed conflict”.

Incidentally, Maganov was not the first Lukoil official to die under suspicious circumstances since Kremlin’s full-scale aggression against its western neighbour began in late February.

A former top manager Aleksandr Subbotin was found dead in the basement of a residence in a Moscow suburb in May.

Russian news reports said the house belonged to a self-styled healer, Shaman Magua, who practised purification rites.

Magua testified that Subbotin came to his house under the influence of alcohol and drugs and demanded that the healer, whose real name is Aleksei Pindurin, performs a healing ritual for hangover symptoms.

Investigators said the preliminary cause of Subbotin’s death was determined to be heart failure.

Yet, it is Ravil Maganov’s demise that caught the attention of the press, having been the most well-publicised in a string of accidental self-defenestrations and other suspicious deaths of those who either profited from good relations with Putin or were a thorn in his side — or both.

Anti-war oligarchs die under strange circumstances

At least another eight Russian oligarchs have died in strange circumstances almost since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. All had in common close links to the Kremlin, immense wealth, a connection to Russian gas and an anti-war stance on Ukraine.

This has raised the suspicions of international investigators, who are beginning to believe that these deaths may, in fact, have been staged suicides or assassinations due to their stance on the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine or their links to corruption in the Russian gas company Gazprom.

It all started in St Petersburg in the run-up to the war.

Only a month before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, a top executive of the gas company Gazprom was found dead in his cottage near St Petersburg.

Leonid Shulman, 60, was found in the bathroom of the house with slashed wrists, local news reported, citing a source.

According to the police authorities, a suicide note was allegedly found next to his body, in which he recounted his suffering after a leg injury — which Gazprom claimed caused him to take a leave of absence.

The version has been questioned after the Warsaw Institue think tank stated that Shulman, who was the head of the transport service at Gazprom Invest, was involved in a possible corruption case at the Russian gas giant.

The morning after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, Alexander Tyulyakov, 65, a senior executive of Gazproms’s Corporate Security, died at his home in the same village as Shulman. According to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, his body was found hanged in the garage.

The same newspaper quoted an unnamed law enforcement source as saying that Gazprom’s own security unit arrived at the scene of the suicide at the same time as the police and was also investigating the death.

One of two deaths that have taken place abroad is that of Mikhail Watford, who lived with his family in the UK. On 28 February, the Ukrainian-born 66-year-old oil and gas magnate, who also built a property empire in London, was found dead at his home in Surrey.

Watford’s cause of death was determined as death by hanging, but his wife and children, who were at home at the time, were unharmed. UK authorities were treating Watford’s death as unexplained but not suspicious.

It later emerged that Watford, commonly referred to as Misha, had changed his surname from Tolstosheya after moving to the UK in early 2000.

Murder-suicides escalate suddenly among Putin-friendly oligarchs?

In March, the bodies of Russian billionaire Vasily Melnikov and his family were found in his luxury flat in Nizhny Novgorod, a city in western Russia.

Melnikov had made his fortune working for one of the medical companies affected by Western sanctions.

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Melnikov, along with his 41-year-old wife and two young children, aged 10 and 4 respectively, died of stab wounds. The murder weapon was allegedly found at the scene of the crime.

The newspaper reported that the oligarch had killed his family before committing suicide, although neighbours and other relatives disagreed with the official version.

Other media have claimed that Melnikov’s company, which imports medical equipment to Russia, was on the verge of bankruptcy due to Western sanctions imposed in retaliation for the war in Ukraine.


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