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Mysterious deaths of Russian oligarchs who dared to criticise Putin (IANS Explainer)

Mysterious deaths of Russian oligarchs who dared to criticise Putin (IANS Explainer)

By Kavya Dubey

A number of Russian businessmen, most of whom were President Vladimir Putin's critics, have been dying curiously, and several on foreign soil, over the past few months -- particularly since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. These prominent businessmen had risen to wield enough influence over the state. In Russia, they are the oligarchs.


Why the oligarchs matter?

The lexical definition of an oligarch is an individual who through private acquisition of state assets amassed great wealth that is stored especially in foreign accounts and properties, and who typically maintain close links to the highest government circles.

The political influence that the oligarch wields is that it can considerably manipulate the economic policies in the favour of their interest, thereby interfering with the state.

The implication of such a situation is that the oligarchs could be a potential threat to the state if their interests come in conflict.

In the wake of the war against Ukraine, an independent stand of the oligarchy, given their business and economic interest and influence, could prove to be anti-state.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the mysterious deaths of affluent Russians, that died by either suicide or accident (defenestration being the most recurring cause), point towards a pattern. The bizarre series of fatalities come after blatant criticism of the Russian President for the drawn-out invasion in Ukraine.

Seventeen elite Russians died suspiciously in 2022. Some of them are listed below:

Ivan Pechorin, a managing director for aviation industry at the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and Arctic, died in September after reportedly falling from a speeding boat off the coast of Vladivostok. He was intoxicated. On that same day, Putin had travelled to Vladivostok to address the Eastern Economic Forum.

Ravil Maganov, chairman of Russian oil giant Lukoil, died after reportedly falling from the sixth-floor window of a Moscow hospital the same month. He and his company had wished that Putin end the invasion, which they called a "tragedy". As per Lukoil, Maganov "passed away after a severe illness".

Aleksandr Subbotin, a former top manager of Lukoil, was found dead in the basement of a Moscow residence in May after he allegedly visited a healer to cure him of symptoms of hangover but suffered heart failure.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the board of Lukoil was one of few companies that stood up for an end to the armed conflict, calling it a "tragedy".

The "assassinations" appear to be in retaliation to not just the opposition to Ukraine invasion, but also links to corruption in Russian gas company Gazprom.

Leonid Shulman, head of transport service at Gazprom Invest, was found dead in February in the run-up to Ukraine's invasion. He is said to have left behind a suicide note before he reportedly slashed his wrists in the bathroom of his St. Petersburg cottage.

The morning following the invasion, Alexander Tyulyakov, a senior executive at Gazprom's Corporate Security, was found hanging in the garage of his home. Gazprom's own security unit reportedly reached before the police.

In August 2022, Soviet-born businessman and another Putin critic, Dan Rapoport fell to his death from his posh Washington, DC, apartment. He had left Russia in 2012 because of his support for Alexei Navalny, a political prisoner. Additionally, he frequently expressed sympathy for Ukraine on social media, calling Putin an "evil, corrupt, deceitful and dangerous man".

Police said that over $2,500 cash was found near Rapoport at the scene, along with a Florida driver's license, a cracked cell phone, and other personal items.

Rapoport had made an eerie Facebook post just two days before his death, posting a picture of Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz, who starred in "Apocalypse Now", with the quote "The horror, the horror."

A divorced Rapoport sold his house in 2016, incidentally, to Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

Some other members of the Russian elite have been even found dead with their spouse and children.

(Kavya Dubey can be reached at

Source: IANS

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Mysterious deaths of Russian oligarchs who dared to criticise Putin (IANS Explainer)

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