It’s a dangerous time to be a Russian oil executive lately, as eight have died since January under suspicious circumstances. Six of them were linked to state-owned giant Gazprom, while the other two were with Lukoil, the second-largest oil company in the country.
The most recent oligarch to meet an untimely end was Ravil Maganov, the (now former) chair of the board of directors of Lukoil who apparently fell from a 6-story window at a Moscow hospital on September 1. His company had criticized Russia’s invasion in Ukraine in March. Hmm.
Lukoil initially tried to pass off his death as the result of “severe illness.” However, Russian state media stepped in to clarify that story.
Baza, a Russian news site with close ties to the police, suggested he may have slipped from a balcony while smoking and that no CCTV was available because cameras had been turned off for repairs.
Meanwhile, the state-run news agency Tass claimed on Thursday that Maganov had taken his own life, citing a source in Russia’s security services who called Maganov’s death a “suicide”. That version of events could not immediately be verified by the Guardian.
Looks like we may never know what exactly happened. How convenient, though, that the security cameras had been turned off.
What the heck is going on in the former Soviet Union? John Lough, an associate fellow at London’s Chatham House think tank and an expert in Russian affairs, told NBC:
It is reminiscent of the banditry of the 1990s in Russia during the first phase of privatization after the collapse of the USSR…
This suggests there is some serious infighting taking place in the sector connected to access to financial flows.
To me, it suggests Vladimir Putin is systematically having his enemies offed, but maybe it’s a coincidence–times eight. Interestingly, Maganov’s death occurred on the same day that Vlad visited the hospital to pay his respects to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, who died on August 30 after a long illness. I know that proves nothing, but it’s intriguing nevertheless.
My colleague streiff wrote back in March about some of the other mysterious deaths:
The body of Sergey Protosenya, former top manager of Russia’s energy giant Novatek, was found together with those of his wife and daughter on Tuesday in a rented villa in Spain… The 55-year-old millionaire was found hanged in the garden of the villa in Lloret de Mar by Catalonian police, Spanish media reported, while his wife and daughter were found in their beds with stab wounds on their bodies.
Just a day before the body of Protosenya was found in Spain, on April 18, former vice-president of Gazprombank Vladislav Avaev was found dead… in his multi-million apartment on Universitetsky Prospekt in Moscow, together with his wife and daughter…The apartment was locked from the inside and a pistol was found in Avaev’s hands, leading investigators to explore the theory that Avaev shot his wife and his 13-year-old daughter before killing himself.
On March 24, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported the death of billionaire Vasily Melnikov in his luxury apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, the sixth-largest city in the country… Kommersant reported that investigators concluded that Melnikov killed his 41-year-old wife and 10-year-old and 4-year-old children before killing himself…
Ukrainian-born Russian tycoon Mikhail Watford was found dead in his home in Surrey in the U.K. on February 28… Watford, 66, was found hanged in the garage of his home by a gardener…
On February 25, Gazprom’s Deputy General Director of the Unified Settlement Center (UCC) for Corporate Security, Alexander Tyulyakov, was found dead in a cottage near St. Petersburg, as reported by the Russian newspaper Gazeta.
Tyulyakov’s body was reportedly found hanged in the apartment’s garage. Police found a note next to his body that led investigators to believe the oligarch had died by suicide.
At that time [In January], 60-year-old Gazprom’s top manager Leonid Shulman was found dead in the bathroom of a cottage in the Leningrad region, next to a note that led police to believe he died by suicide, according to Gazeta and Russian media group RBC.
Since streiff’s article was published, we can add Maganov and Alexander Subbotin, former top manager of Lukoil, to the list; he reportedly went into “in a state of severe alcoholic and drug intoxication” the day before his death in May.
Financier Bill Browder, who has a large portfolio in Russia, told Newsweek after Subbotin’s death that you should assume the worst:
…any time you see a wealthy Russian dying in suspicious circumstances.
There has been enough empirical evidence of assassinations organized by the Kremlin or business rivals in Russia, to make it likely that these were murders and not suicides and other explanations that have been bandied about by the Russian authorities.
If that’s not enough to convince you that dark things are going on under Putin, on August 29 a car bomb killed the daughter of ultra-nationalist political theorist and Putin ally Aleksandr Dugin. Theories are flying over whether the Ukrainians did it, Putin’s enemies, or maybe even Vlad himself ordered it as an excuse to escalate attacks against Ukraine. The Ukrainian woman who the Russians accuse of the assassination can’t tell us:
A week earlier in Washington, D.C. a Putin and Ukraine war critic who lived in the U.S. named Dan Rapoport jumped from a high-rise to his death. As the NY Post writes, “Both deaths sound like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. But the world of Russian espionage is even more bizarre than fiction.”
All I know is I wouldn’t want to be a Russian oil oligarch or Putin critic right now.