2022 was apparently a pretty bad year to be a Russian oligarchs. Several Russian business elites, most of them with links to the energy industry, began “mysteriously” dropping dead ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin began his invasion of Ukraine.
A few days ago, multi-millionaire Russian politician Pavel Antov “mysteriously” died after falling from the third-floor window of a hotel in Odisha, just a few days after another member of his group lost his life in the same hotel.
This string of at least 12 suspicious deaths also coincides with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has marked a period of significantly heightened tensions at the Kremlin.
But there are a few important pointers before we get to the list.
Most of the victims are/were high ranking executives at some of Russia’s largest oil producers like Gazprom, Novatek, and Lukoil.
The cause of death in several cases were those of accidents, like falling out a window or falling down the stairs.
The surprising part is that victims are not limited to the president’s critics, but also to those who’ve maintained close ties to Putin and the Kremlin.
No one knows if the deaths are just a string of coincidences or possesses some sense of connection. We tell you the facts behind this string of mysterious deaths.
Neither Gazprom nor the region's investigative agencies issues any public statements surrounding the mysterious death, which was described as an apparent suicide by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
The newspaper claimed that people, who described themselves as members of the company’s security services, came and cordoned off the scene.
“We arrived at the scene almost simultaneously with the police, who were called by those who discovered the corpse,” an anonymous employee of the Investigative Committee told Novaya Gazeta.
“Personally, I saw a man in a noose, some piece of paper lay on the floor of the garage,” he added and mentioned that when the investigative committee arrived, “forensic specialists” who claimed to be “Gazprom's security service, cordoned off the territory, and we, and most of the policemen were simply put outside the fence of the house.”
In April, a former deputy chairman of Novatek, Russia’s biggest liquefied natural gas producer, was found dead in a vacation home in Spain.
Sergey Protosenya was found hanging in an apartment in the Spanish seaside town of Catalonia, while his wife and daughter were also found dead, in the same apartment, with stab wounds.
At the time of his death, Protosenya was retired and gathered a fortune of close to $440 million, La Vanguardia reported, citing sources close to the family.
The Catalan police body, Mossos D’Esquadra, told Insider that their primary theory was that of a murder-suicide, claiming that Protosenya stabbed his wife and daughter before killing himself. However, a statement from Novatek appeared to suggest that the idea of Sergey being responsible for the deaths had “no relation to reality.”
"Sergey Protosenya ... established himself as an outstanding person and a wonderful family man, a strong professional who made a considerable contribution to the formation and development of the Company," it said, according to Business Insider.
Moreover, Sergey’s son, Fedor, who was in France during the deaths, staunchly disagreed with theories that his father muddle anyone.
He told Daily Mail, “My father is not a killer,” and alleged that all three family members were victims of homicide.
“He loved my mother and especially Maria, my sister…He could never do anything to harm them. I don’t know what happened that night but I know that my dad did not hurt them,” he said.
Putin ally and former vice-president of Gazprom Bank, Vladislav Avayev, was found dead with his wife and 18 year old daughter inside his apartment in Moscow.
Avayev allegedly killed his family after which he reportedly took his own life. The 51-year-old’s body, along with those of his reportedly pregnant wife and teenage daughter were found with gunshot wounds.
Similar to Sergey Protosenya’s case, the deaths were being investigated as a murder suicide.
A former vice president of Gazprom Bank, Igor Volobuev, who previously left Russia for Ukraine, spoke to CNN and said that he did not believe the theory that Avayev killed himself
“I think he knew something and that he posed some sort of risk,” he said.
Sky News reported that Avayev also had a role in Putin’s Kremlin administration, where was the head of an important department.
Former Lukoil executive Alexander Subbotin was found dead in a Jamaican shaman’s (spiritual healer’s) home in Mytischi, a town just outside Moscow, TASS reported.
The agency, quoting a source, said that Subbotin was highly intoxicated when he turned up to the house and added that he suffered an apparent heart attack.
In March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Lukoil board of directors, under Ravil Maganov’s chaipersonship, had criticised Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and called for the "soonest termination of the armed conflict.”
They further expressed the company’s sympathy to the victims of “this tragedy.”
Online news outlet Mash claimed that the house was owned by a local healer, Magua, and his wife, who were offering unorthodox treatments to high-paying clients, with one procedure involving the venom of poisonous toads.
"They would make an incision on the skin, dripped toad poison there, and after the patient vomited, he allegedly would feel better," Mash claimed and alleged that Subbotin was a frequent customer who came in looking for a hangover cure.
"Suddenly, he felt unwell, and his heart ached. The shaman decided not to call an ambulance, gave him some usual heart drops and put the billionaire to sleep in the basement, where he later died," Mash further reported.
Dan Rapoport, a Latvian-born American businessman and outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, was discovered dead in front of a Washington DC high rise luxury apartment building.
He was found with a black hat, orange flip-flops, a Florida driver’s license and a little more than $2,500 in cash.
According to the Metropolitan PD, there was no suspicion of foul play and subsequently in November, the medical examiner’s report confirmed tat he died after falling from a height, without conclusively explaining the circumstances before Rapoport’s death.
In 2012, Rapoport left Moscow and returned to the US, allegedly due to his support for Russia’s democratic opposition and in particular, support for Alexei Navalny, one of the most vocal critics of Putin’s regime and an outspoken campaigner against corruption in Russian governance.
The police said that they had ended their investigation but provided no explanation for Raporport’s death.
His wife, Illya, categorically denied the possibility of the death being a suicide but mentioned that Dan did seem depressed to her.
In September 2022, the chairman of Lukoil, Ravil Maganov died after falling from a hospital window in Moscow, BBC reported.
He was another on the list of top Lukoil executives who’ve lost their life under mysterious circumstances. The company confirmed his death but said that the 67-year-old “passed away following severe illness.”
Local Russian media claimed that he was undergoing treatment for unknown illnesses at Moscow’s Central Clinical hospital and died due to his injuries.
Russian state-run news agency TASS quoted sources and said that he had fallen out of the window on the sixth floor, later saying that he had taken his own life.
It further cited an unnamed source in state law enforcement who claimed that Maganov had been hospitalized after a heart attack and was taking anti-depressants.
However, Reuters reported that two people close to Maganov said that according to them, it is highly unlikely that the he took his own life.
It was under Maganov’s chairperson-ship that the board of directors issued a statement of support for Ukraine and condemned the war against Ukraine.
Clearly, his death is anything but clear-cut.
Russian aviation expert Anatoly Gerashchenko mysteriously died after falling down several flights of stairs at his workplace’s headquarters in September.
The Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) said that the organisation’s former head “died as a result of an accident,” but did not elaborate further.
However, local Russian media reports claimed that the 73-year-old died after he fell to his death. Russian news outlet Izvestia, citing anonymous sources, reported that he “fell from a great height.”
Significantly, the MAI had extremely close ties with Putin’s playhouse, the Russian defense ministry and works hand-in-hand for drone and aerospace research.
Gerashchenko was a renowned aviation expert and has been lauded in Russia, earning several awards from the Russian government, including the “Merit to the Fatherland” medal.
We're Not Done, There's More
But these are just a few in a list of several Russian businessmen, Kremlin critics, and many Putin allies who’ve lost their lives under suspicious circumstances over 2022.
Russian energy executive Ivan Pechorin drowned to his death off the Vladivostok coast, a major Pacific port city, in September after he allegedly fell off his luxury yacht.
He was the managing director for the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic and worked under Putin, modernising aviations in eastern Russia and further developing resources in the Arctic.
Similar tragedy struck Ukraine-born oil and gas magnate Mikhail Watford, who lived in Britain with his family, who was found dead in his home in Surrey in February.
The 66-year-old, who’s also built a considerable property empire in London, allegedly died by hanging himself, but his wife and children were unharmed. He was reportedly a member of Putin’s inner circle. The death was treated as unexplained, but not suspicious.
In May, director of a Sochi ski resort, owned by Gazprom, Andrei Krukovsky died after he allegedly fell off a cliff while hiking near the Achipse fortress, an archeological site in Russia.
In July, businessman and multi-millionaire Yuri Varonov was found dead in the swimming pool of his luxury St Petersburg home with a gunshot wound to the head.
While being a Russian oligarch definitely has its share of positives, the chances of getting into an accident do seem exceedingly high.