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Why have a number of prominent businessmen in Russia died in suspicious circumstances?

A number of high-profile sudden deaths have been reported in recent months, many of whom had close links to Russia’s largest energy companies.

Eight prominent Russian businessmen have died suspiciously this year

The political climate in Russia is often characterised by mistrust and conspiracy, but President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened the stakes for the country’s powerful elite.

The Kremlin began accumulating tens of thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border in January, signalling that an attack on Russia’s westerly neighbour was possible. Since then Lukoil, the largest privately owned oil and gas company in Russia, has been surprisingly forthright in its criticism of the attack, calling publically for the end of the conflict.

Earlier this week Lukoil’s chairman Ravil Maganov died after reportedly falling out of a hospital window in Moscow, according to Russian state-owned new agency TASS. However a statement posted on the Lukoil website to announce his death said Maganov had “passed away following a severe illness,” making no mention of any fall.

Maganov was the sixth prominent businessman with links to Russia’s two largest energy companies - Gazprom and Lukoil – to have died in suspicious circumstance since January, when rumours of an invasion became more concrete.

Former Gazprombank vice president Vladislav Avayev was found dead with his wife and daughter in April in an apparent murder-suicide. However Igor Volobuev, a former Gazprombank vice president himself, told CNN that he did not believe the official account.

“His job was to deal with private banking, that means dealing with VIP clients. He was in charge of very large amounts of money. So, did he kill himself? I don’t think so. I think he knew something and that he posed some sort of risk,” Volobuev said.

Eight Russian businessmen found dead

Maganov recently became the latest Russian businessman to be found dead in unusual circumstances, with a number of other high-ranking energy sector officials also dying in recent months. Here’s what we know about them...

Leonid Shulman – The 60-year-old served as head of the transport service at Gazprom Invest but his body was found on 30 January in the bathroom of a cottage near Saint Petersburg. RIA news agency reported it as a suicide.

Alexander Tyulakov - The Gazprom executive was found dead in his garage in St Petersburg on 25 February, the morning after Russia invaded Ukraine. Newspaper Novaya Gazeta described it as an apparent suicide.

Mikhail Watford - The Ukrainian-born businessman was found dead at a property in the UK in the days after the Russian invasion. An investigation from Surrey Police is still ongoing.

Vladislav Avayev – Gazprombank ex-vice president was found dead alongside the bodies of his wife and daughter in a Moscow apartment. Kommersant newspaper reported that Avayev had likely shot them before committing suicide.

Sergei Protosenya –The 55-year-old had been a top official at Russia’s largest liquefied natural gas producer Novatek but was found dead with his wife and daughter at a villa in Spain, according to Russian news media.

Vladimir Lyakishev - Former co-owner of the Bratya Karavayevi restaurant chain was found dead on 4 May. Russia’s RBC media group reported that he died of a gunshot wound to the head on the balcony of his apartment block.

Yury Voronov - CEO and founder of Astra-Shipping, a company with close ties to Gazprom, was found dead in a swimming pool. RBC report that he was found with a gunshot wound to his head and a pistol nearby.

Ravil Maganov - The 67-year-old’s death after falling from a Moscow hospital window is the eighth fatality in as many months.


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