Highlights

  • 11 Russian oligarchs reported dead in 9 months
  • Spate of deaths in backdrop of Ukraine war
  • Official stories challenged in many death cases

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11 top Russian businessmen dead in 9 months: shot, stabbed, fell from buildings. Putin routing rebellion?

Are all these deaths a coincidence? Or are Russian businessmen, frustrated with Western sanctions, being scared into discipline by the Russian establishment?

In 9 months, eleven Russian businessmen found dead. Some stabbed, some shot in the head, and some fell out of windows. The deaths occurred not just in Russia, but in England and Spain too. All this in the backdrop of the protracted Russia-Ukraine war, where Moscow's failure to win the conflict even after so many months is putting Vladimir Putin in a difficult position.

Are all these deaths a coincidence? Or are Russian businessmen, frustrated with Western sanctions, being scared into discipline by the Russian establishment?

Here's a look at the circumstances of the deaths, official stories, and conspiracy theories.

The first case was of Leonid Shulman, the head of transport at Gazprom Invest, which handles oil & gas major Gazprom's investment projects. Shulman was reportedly found dead in Leninsky village near Leningrad in Russia. His body was found in his cottage on 30 January 2022. Investigators said that a suicide note had also been discovered.

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The second case was of another Gazprom top executive - Alexander Tyulakov. He was reportedly found dead in the same village as Shulman. Tyulakov's body was found in his garage on 25 February 2022. Russian reports called this death a suicide too.

The next death - that of Mikhail Watford - occurred outside Russia. Watford, a Ukraine-born Russian oil & gas billionaire, was found dead at his home in Surrey, England. His body was discovered on 28 February 2022. UK cops ruled out suspicious angles in the death.

The fourth case was of Vasily Melnikov, the owner of medical supplies firm MedStom. He was found dead along with his wife and children in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod. They reportedly died due to stab wounds on 23 March 2022. Investigators claimed there were no signs of 'unauthorised entry' into the house.

The next businessman to die was Vladislav Avayev, a former vice president of Gazprombank. He was found dead along with his wife and daughter. Their corpses were found at their Moscow house on 18 April 2022. Investigators reportedly called it a murder-suicide.

The sixth case was again outside Russia. Sergey Protosenya, a former executive at gas producer Novatek, and his family were found dead in Lloret de Mar, near Barcelona in Spain. His wife and daughter's bodies reportedly had injuries. The deaths were discovered on 19 April 2022. Catalan cops suspected yet another murder-suicide.

The next death was of Vladimir Lyakishev, former co-owner of the Bratya Karavayevi restaurant chain. He was found dead in Moscow on 4 May 2022 with a gunshot wound to the head. A gun registered in his name was reportedly found near the body. The corpse was discovered on the 16th floor balcony of the building where he lived.

Deceased number 8 was Alexander Subbotin, a senior executive at oil & gas giant Lukoil. He was found dead in Mytishchi on 8 May 2022. He reportedly died during a visit to a shaman in an intoxicated state. Subbotin was found in the basement, after having suffered an apparent heart attack. Authorities opened a criminal investigation in the case.

The next victim was Yury Voronov, founder-CEO of Astra Shipping, a Gazprom contractor. He was found dead in a Leningrad cottage on 4 July 2022. His body was in the swimming pool with a gunshot wound to the head. A pistol was found near the body. Investigators claimed no one was seen on CCTV cameras entering the house.

The most high-profile and mysterious death was of Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Lukoil. He died in Moscow on 1 September 2022 after falling from a hospital window. However, his company's statement cited a serious illness, and did not mention the fall.

The most recent incident involved Ivan Pechorin, managing director of Far East & Arctic Development Corporation. He went sailing off the coast of Russky Island on 10 Sept, and allegedly fell from a speeding vessel into the waters of the Sea of Japan. Pechorin's body was found on 12 September after an extensive search.

While silence surrounds the deaths of most of these top businessmen, in some cases, voices of doubt have been raised, questioning the official stories.

Ravil Maganov's death shocked many, and his company's decision to not acknowledge the deadly fall from a window only sparked more interest. Maganov may have painted a target on his own back after Lukoil took a public stance seen as critical of Putin. In March 2022, the company had called for an end to the Ukraine conflict, and expressed sympathy for the victims.

Some brave voices have also questioned the police version on Vladislav Avayev's death.

While the death of Avayev and his family is being probed as a murder and suicide, a former vice president with Gazprombank pointed out that Avayev used to deal with VIP clients. Police say that the apartment door was closed from the inside, and the deaths were discovered by a relative. However, Igor Volobuev pointed out that Avayev used to handle large amounts of money in his job, and he probably had access to some risky information, because of which he might have been eliminated.

In the case of Sergey Protosenya, Spanish cops claimed he killed his family, and then himself. However, Protosenya's son has challenged this theory, claiming his father could not have been the killer, hinting at a murder conspiracy.

The deaths of these Russian business elite occurred all over Europe. But in case this is a conspiracy hatched by the deep state, this would not be the first time that Moscow's targets have been killed outside Russian territory. Western powers have long accused Russia of using poisons and nerve agents to kill former spies or defectors.

The West has so far failed in intimidating Russia into stopping the Ukraine war. Their best hope can be internal pressure on Putin to end the conflict. But if top businessmen are turning up dead, then voices of dissent are not likely to grow very loud.

It might be time for top investigative and spy agencies of Western countries to take a closer look at the growing list of dead Russian businessmen, and take steps to provide security to Putin's critics.

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