At least eight Russian oligarchs have died in undisclosed circumstances since early 2022.

Novatek, Gazprom and Lukoil: these are some of the companies to which the oligarchs found dead in recent months were linked. The volume of reported cases, in circumstances to be ascertained, has generated speculation.

Last week, the death of the Russian oligarch was reported. Alexander Subbotin, former manager of the energy company Lukoil, an investigation has been opened, reported the Russian agency TASS, which added that tests would be carried out to detect the presence of drugs in the body. Subboti was found dead in a shaman’s basement in Mytishchi after suffering an apparent heart attack, wrote Newsweek. Also this month, Andrei Krukovsky lost his life falling off a cliff, DW reported. He was only 37 years old and was the director of the resort Krasnaya Polyana.

In April, two Russian oligarchs were found dead with their families just a day apart: Vladislav Avayev e Sergei Protosenya. Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprombank, was found dead, with gunshot wounds, in his apartment in Moscow, wrote the Business Insider. The theory on the table is that Avayev shot his wife and daughter before ending his life. A little over three kilometers away, Sergei Protosenya, a former member of the board of directors of the natural gas company Novatek, was found hanged and his wife and daughter stabbed to death.

According to the Spanish channel Telecinco, the first investigations they also pointed out that the millionaire had first killed his wife and daughter while they slept and then committed suicide. But Novatek issued a statement describing Protosenya as a family man: “Unfortunately, speculation has emerged in the media on this topic, but we are convinced that these speculations are not real. We hope that the Spanish authorities will carry out an impartial and detailed investigation to determine what happened.”

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Investigations do not clarify causes

They were not the only cases to show similarities. At the end of March, the death of Vasily Melnikov, owner of the medical equipment company MedStom. CNN reported that the details of Melnikov’s family death reported by Russian newspaper Kommersant were in line with what was announced by the Russian investigation: a man and his wife, as well as their four- and ten-year-old children, were found stabbed. and lifeless on March 23.

“[Os investigadores] are considering different versions of what happened, including the murder of the children and the woman” by Melnikov, followed by “self-inflicted death”, Russian sources clarified, quoted by CNN. There were no signs of forcible entry into the apartment, but no further information about the progress of the investigation was released.

One of the cases in this list predates the beginning of the war in Ukraine. In January, Leonid Shulman, from Gazprom, was found dead. According to Business Insider, a suicide note was left at the scene, but the authenticity of which is being questioned.

A month later the body of another Gazprom employee was found. The publication “Ukrayinska Pravda” points out that the body of Alexander Tyulyakov, a manager at the Russian energy company, was found on the morning of February 25. Police were allegedly driven away by Gazprom security and suicide was cited as the apparent cause.

In early March, a Ukrainian-born oligarch was found dead in his home as well. It was about Mikhail Watford, who was 66 years old and made his fortune in oil and gas. “An investigation into the death is ongoing, but we do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances at this time,” a Surrey police spokesman said. There were no signs that he had been targeted by UK sanctions for his closeness to Putin or any Kremlin-led operation.

Speculation about Russia’s involvement

The various cases have raised suspicions. In an article published by the Warsaw Institute, a think tank in international affairs, it is argued that the deaths were suspected to have been staged as suicides, questioning who could be responsible. “Possibly, people linked to the Kremlin are covering up traces of fraud in state-owned companies”, it concludes.

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Bill Browder, an investor who made his fortune in Russia until he was blacklisted by the Kremlin in 2005, told Newsweek that “whenever there is a lot of money involved, you should assume the worst.” Browder argues that “there is sufficient empirical evidence” of assassinations organized by the Kremlin or of business rivals in Russia to make these cases suspicious. But so far, there is no evidence of outside involvement in either case.

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