The list of Russian oligarchs who have died under mysterious circumstances in the past year grows longer. The latest, Pavel Antov, known as “the Sausage King,” was found lying in a pool of blood beneath his hotel window in Rayagada, Odisha state, India.
Despite being a member of Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, and also an MP, Antov had called Russia’s attacks on Ukraine “terrorist” during the summer.
Obviously, the first statement had been followed by backpedaling, but repentance may have come too late. According to Indian investigators, Antov was in India to celebrate his 65th birthday with a group of friends, including Vladimir Budanov.
The latter was found dead in his hotel room on December 23 under still-unclear circumstances. Rayagada police is reportedly leaning towards the theory that Antov committed suicide as a reaction to the death of his friend Budanov.
But, if we go over the news over the past year (one could also dig deeper, but let’s narrow down the field of inquiry), Antov’s unexpected suicide is not the first such death among Russian businessmen.
In chronological order, we begin with Leonid Shulman, director of the transportation branch of Gazprominvest, a subsidiary of Gazprom (the Russian gas giant), who was found dead of an apparent suicide in the bathtub of his country home in Leninsky village. Shulman was retired, and police said they found a suicide note.
A little later, on February 25, another Gazprom executive, Aleksandr Tyuliakov, was found hanged, also in Leninsky. He, too, appears to have left a note.
Three days later, Mikhail Watford, a Ukrainian-born oil and gas tycoon, was found hanged in the garage of his mansion in Surrey, England. Authorities said the circumstances of the tycoon’s death did not seem suspicious, but they still called it “unexplained.”
Then came the news about Vasily Melnikov, head of the pharmaceutical giant Medstom. Melnikov, his wife Galina and his two young children were found stabbed to death in their luxury apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
According to the Russian authorities, Melnikov seemed to have killed his family before stabbing himself to death, and knives were reportedly found at the scene.
On April 19, Spanish police discovered Russian millionaire Sergei Protosenya, former vice president of natural gas company Novatek, hanging in his garden with a bloody axe next to him, and his wife Natalya and 18-year-old daughter Maria dead from stab wounds in his home at a villa on the Costa Brava.
Just the day before, Vladislav Avayev, a former Kremlin official and former Gazprombank vice chairman, had been found dead of a gunshot wound in his Moscow apartment. Russia’s TASS news agency reported that he was found with a gun in his hand. His wife Yelena and daughter Maria, 13, had also been fatally shot.
In May it was the turn of Andrei Krukovsky, manager of a ski resort in Sochi owned by Gazprom, who officially fell to his death while hiking a trail.
Shortly afterwards, Aleksandr Subbotin, an executive at the Lukoil oil company, died of heart problems while reportedly taking part in shamanic rituals. And in July, Yuri Voronov, head of Astra Shipping, a company working for Gazprom, reportedly shot himself in the head.
In August, Dan Rapoport, born in Latvia in the Soviet Union and later naturalized in the U.S., appeared to commit suicide by throwing himself off a Washington building wearing a hat and flip-flops and with more than $2,000 in his pocket. Rapoport was notable by frequent criticism of Putin’s government.
But the most illustrious apparent suicide was on September 1: Ravil Maganov, chairman of Lukoil’s board of directors, jumped from a window of Moscow’s Central Hospital under mysterious circumstances. In March, Lukoil’s central committee had issued a note: it hoped for a “quick end to the armed conflict” and offered “sincere sympathy to all victims.”
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