The year 2022 was apparently a bad year to be a Russian oligarch. Members of Russia’s business elite, particularly those linked to big energy firms, started dying one by one under what have been described as “suspicious” circumstances over the past year.
The string of suspicious deaths coincides with the ongoing war in Ukraine and a period of heightened political stress in the Kremlin. On July 9th, a Wikipedia page appeared online tracking the deaths.
Due to a lack of verifiable information, it remains unclear whether the string of recent deaths among Russian oligarchs is indeed due to foul play or whether they were merely coincidences that lend well to conspiracy theories.
Deaths of Russian oligarchs
Whether or not the deaths of Russian business elites are truly deserving of suspicion, it cannot be denied that a significant number of them have died over the course of the past year.
The “mystery deaths,” as Wikipedia calls them, began in January and February just prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Leonid Shulman and Alexander Tyulakov, both directors at Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom, were found dead during the first months of the year. Both men had apparently committed suicide.
Igor Nosov, a former Russian official, also died in February after suffering a stroke. At the end of that same month, Mikhail Watford, an oil and gas tycoon of Ukrainian origin, was found dead in the UK.
Russian oligarchs were also found dead under more unusual circumstances in March and April. The body of Vasily Melnikov, the CEO of a medical firm, was found next to the corpses of his wife and two sons all of whom had been stabbed to death.
In April, Vladislav Avayev, an ex-Kremlin official, was found dead in his multi-million dollar apartment in Moscow. His wife and thirteen-year-old daughter were likewise discovered dead at the scene. All three had sustained gunshot wounds in what was pronounced to be a murder-suicide.
Hangovers and shamans?
By far the most bizarre death of the Russian oligarchs was that of Alexander Subbotin, who died in May.
The billionaire oligarch was found dead in the basement of a shaman’s home in the city of Mytishchi, just northeast of Moscow. Subbotin traveled to the shaman’s home “in a state of severe alcoholic and drug intoxication the day before,” said Russian media outlet TASS.
According to TASS, Subbotin went to see the shaman for a hangover cure. Russian media reported that his body was discovered in a basement used for “Jamaican voodoo rituals.” A criminal investigation into Subbotin’s death was opened by Russian authorities after the body was found.
The oligarchs’ deaths continue
In December, Pavel Antonov, a Russian lawmaker and successful businessman, who made his fortune selling sausages, died in a hotel in India. He was reportedly killed after falling from a third-floor hotel window.
During the summer, Antonov had denied criticizing Putin’s war in Ukraine after a message appeared on his WhatsApp account. He was not the only Russian oligarch to die in India. In the same hotel in the state of Odisha, another Russian guest reportedly died of a heart stroke.
A clear and forthcoming explanation for the strange fatalities is unlikely to emerge anytime soon. Some news outlets have pointed out that a significant number of those Russian business elites who were found dead had been critical of Putin since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
However, such connections and suspicions remain unproven. Coincidence alone is not sufficient proof. Nevertheless, the continued deaths of Russian oligarchs under bizarre circumstances are certainly raising some eyebrows.
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