Yuri Voronov’s corpse was discovered floating in his nation home swimming pool early final month. Drowning accidents happen each summer time, all around the world. But Mr Voronov, a multi-millionaire Russian tycoon, met his watery finish in a way that was each extremely uncommon and, little doubt, alarming to a few of his friends.
Mr Voronov, 61, didn’t drown. The usually crystal waters had been clouded with blood, because of the close-range gunshot wound that killed him.
Then there may be the case of Anatoly Chubais. A former deputy prime minister, he oversaw Russia’s transformation from communist to capitalist economic system.
He was taken all of the sudden and significantly unwell this week. Until lately President Putin’s particular envoy on sustainable vitality and local weather change, Mr Chubais, 67, was the very best Kremlin official to resign his submit and depart the nation in protest on the invasion of Ukraine.
It is being reported that the economist is on life help, affected by a uncommon neurological dysfunction. Other sources and opposition activists have speculated that he’s the sufferer of an tried homicide by poisoning, made to appear to be pure causes. An unnamed European intelligence company is investigating.
Such suspicion is comprehensible. The Chubais case is barely the most recent in a sequence of mysterious diseases and violent deaths — greater than a dozen — to have befallen Russian businessmen, officers and their shut households, since Putin’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine started and Western sanctions had been imposed.
Since President Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, greater than a dozen Russian businessmen, officers and their households have died in uncommon circumstances. Yuri Voronov (pictured above centre) was discovered lifeless in his swimming pool
Pictured: The first Kremlin official to stop over the battle, Anatoly Chubais, left, in March, and, proper, in hospital in Italy in August
The deaths seem to have been precipitated both by suicide or home dispute, albeit amid wild tales of shamans, toad venom, illicit affairs and hearts drawn in blood.
Yet there may be one other hyperlink. Like the unlucky Voronov and Chubais, quite a few these lifeless males held high-ranking positions at — or had shut working ties with — the Kremlin-controlled vitality large Gazprom. This £68 billion leviathan — Russia’s greatest firm — is centre stage within the Kremlin’s financial and navy confrontation with the West over Ukraine.
As quite a few European nations are main customers of Russian fuel — round a 3rd of Germany’s fuel is equipped by Moscow — vitality provides will be weaponised by the Kremlin. And if Putin needs to show off the faucet, Gazprom is the automobile for this coverage.
So what does this must do with the sudden loss of life of so many multi-millionaires who’ve prospered within the Putin years? Couldn’t their grisly ends have been prompted by the stress of the strict sanctions imposed by the West on their companies and private property? Or maybe, extra prosaically, by the form of catastrophic marital disputes that plague the super-rich?
Of course it’s simply doable that the litany of deaths is a horrible coincidence. But in Russia, such ‘coincidences’ have a sinister historical past. Some imagine the Kremlin is behind the ‘suicides’. Had the victims fallen out of favour, for no matter purpose, or did they know an excessive amount of about Gazprom’s labyrinthine monetary secrets and techniques, endemic corruption and hyperlinks to the safety companies?
In a time of battle, a dictator doesn’t pussyfoot. And Putin, the previous KGB operative, has certainly torn up the rule ebook.
Pictured above: Vladimir Putin with Anatoly Chubais – the primary Kremlin official to stop over Russia’s battle in Ukraine
Alexander Tyulakov (left), and Leonid Shulman (proper), had been discovered lifeless in the identical St Petersburg suburb from hanging and stabbing respectively
He has invaded a sovereign state. His artillery regiments are launching missiles into residential neighbourhoods. His foot troopers are raping and executing civilians. And he’s holding world meals provides hostage by his blockade of Black Sea grain exports.
Against this backdrop, eradicating a number of troublesome tycoons with a knife, gun or poison should appear no hassle in any respect.
The killing — or culling — started in January as Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border.
Leonid Shulman, the 60-year-old boss of Gazprom Invest’s transport service, was discovered lifeless in a pool of blood on the ground a WC in his home in a rich gated improvement within the district of Leninsky close to St Petersburg, the place many high Gazprom officers have their nation properties.
There had been wounds on each his wrists. He had badly damaged a leg at New Year and he reportedly left a suicide notice stating that he was struggling extreme ache. Other reviews instructed he was being investigated for fraud. All that was undisputed was his loss of life.
On February 25 — the day after the Ukraine invasion started — and once more within the Leninsky property, Shulman’s Gazprom colleague Alexander Tyulakov, 61, was discovered lifeless. His girlfriend apparently found his physique within the storage.
The ‘senior financial and security official at deputy general director level’ had died by hanging. A ‘suicide note’ was discovered close by, the contents of which haven’t been disclosed. Reports mentioned he had been ‘badly beaten’ earlier than loss of life.
And so it has continued. On April 18, Vladislav Avayev, 51, a former Kremlin official and vp of Gazprombank, the vitality firm’s monetary affiliate, was discovered lifeless by his daughter Anastasia in his household’s £2 million flat on the 14th ground of a Moscow block.
Pictured: Billionaire 43-year-old Alexander Subbotin, a former high government with Kremlin-friendly vitality large Lukoil, was discovered lifeless in May 2022 within the basement of the house, close to Moscow, of a ‘shaman’ who specialised in voodoo rituals
Sergey Protosenya, 55, was discovered hanged in Spain, after apparently killing spouse Natalia, 53, and daughter, Maria, with an axe
And not solely Avayev — however his spouse Elena, 47, and their different daughter Maria, 13. All had been shot and a pistol found within the lifeless man’s hand.
An as but unsubstantiated story — disputed by pals — instructed he had been pushed to insanity after his spouse informed him that she was pregnant by their chauffeur. It had, due to this fact, gone down formally as a case of murder-suicide.
But a neighbour mentioned: ‘He was a nerd. He was smart and rich. There was no way a man like that could kill.’ Three days later, an much more bloody, family-sized slaying passed off, this time within the Spanish resort of Lloret de Mar.
Millionaire Sergei Protosenya, 55, former deputy chairman of Novatek — Russia’s largest non-public fuel firm of which Gazprom is a significant shareholder — was discovered hanged in his villa backyard. The our bodies of his spouse Natalia and 18-year-old daughter had been additionally in the home. They had been hacked to loss of life with an axe as they slept.
Spanish police have made no remark to the Mail on their investigation however are believed to be engaged on the premise that this was one other murder-suicide.
The lifeless man’s son, Fedor, has mentioned he believes it was a triple homicide made to appear to be one thing else. The hanged man is claimed to have borne no bloodstains, regardless of the carnage he allegedly wrought within the bedrooms.
These deaths precipitated a dissident vice-president of Gazprombank to solid doubt on each the Avayev and Protosenya deaths, saying they had been linked to what they knew about elite funds.
Ukrainian-born Igor Volobuev, 50, who left his position on the financial institution to go house and struggle in opposition to Russia, declared: ‘All these stories are strange. I don’t imagine in suicide. It won’t match into my head.’
Ex-Kremlin official and Gazprombank vice-president Vladislav Avayev, 51, (pictured) discovered lifeless by his daughter Anastasia, 26, amid suspicions he killed his ‘pregnant’ spouse, Yelena, 47, and daughter Maria, 13, earlier than taking his personal life, in Moscow
Ukrainian-born phone mogul and philanthropist Yevgeny Palant met his ugly finish in June when he and his spouse Olga additionally Ukrainian-born — had been discovered at their dacha close to Moscow by their daughter Polina, 20, with a number of stab wounds
Next to go was delivery billionaire Alexander Subbotin, 43, who had been a senior government at Kremlin-allied vitality large Lukoil. This was maybe probably the most weird of all of the deaths.
Subbotin was discovered lifeless in May within the basement of the house, close to Moscow, of a ‘shaman’ who specialised in voodoo rituals. It was initially instructed that Subbotin had died of a coronary heart assault having had ‘toad venom’ dripped on his pores and skin. Official reviews later acknowledged that he had succumbed to a cocktail of cocaine and alcohol.
Alexey Ogarev, 64, a former senior Kremlin official, diplomat, arms seller and oil enterprise government, was discovered lifeless on June 16 at his dacha on a 30-acre property in one other unique rural improvement close to Moscow. His physique didn’t show any indicators of violence, official reviews acknowledged. An investigation is ongoing.
There was no such thriller about how Ukrainian-born phone mogul and philanthropist Yevgeny Palant met his ugly finish little greater than every week later. He and his spouse Olga — additionally Ukrainian-born — had been discovered at their dacha close to Moscow by their daughter Polina, 20, with a number of stab wounds.
It has been reported that Olga had flown right into a rage when she found that her husband — who had connections with the Kremlin elite — was having an affair and about to depart her. She stabbed him 14 instances then inflicted deadly knife wounds on herself. Before she died it’s claimed she drew two hearts in blood on the wall of the property.
That is the official line not less than: one good friend reportedly disputed this situation, saying that the couple had been ‘so harmonious’ and that ‘one of them possibly killing the other because of jealousy, causes nothing but bewilderment’.
Yevgeny Palant, 47, and his spouse Olga, 50, each Ukrainian-born, had been discovered with knife wounds by daughter Polina, 20, in June
An different clarification — of those and all the opposite deaths — was given in a sensational May 2 submit on the identical General SVR Telegram channel (a Russian counter-information channel that makes use of an encrypted instantaneous messaging platform), which first reported particulars about Putin’s poor well being and relationship with the previous Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.
The report acknowledged: ‘The sudden deaths of former and current employees of Gazprom structures, in particular Gazprombank, as well as Novatek, were initiated by FSB [the Russian security service] Director Alexander Bortnikov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, after the approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
‘It should be understood that the financing of secret operations [of the security services and armed forces] took place precisely through the structures of Gazprom and Novatek, and Gazprombank played a central role, and the active attempts of the Russian leadership to withdraw Gazprombank from sanctions are connected with this.
‘At the end of last year, Putin was informed about the leak of information about the financing of secret operations and… the scheme of financing the agents of the 5th FSB service through employees of Gazprom structures.’
An investigation passed off, claimed the report. The deaths adopted. ‘Putin approved the entire list for liquidation without looking,’ it was alleged.
This has not been corroborated, after all, and a few are sceptical about SVR Telegram’s reliability. But there are precedents for such bloody ‘housekeeping’ and they’re set out in Catherine Belton’s latest, extremely acclaimed ebook, Putin’s People: How The KGB Took Back Russia And Then Took On The West.
Belton describes an identical spate of ‘suicides’ that passed off greater than 30 years in the past because the Soviet Union crumbled.
Days after the failure of the Communist Party hardliners’ tried coup in 1991, the physique of Nikolay Kruchina was discovered on the bottom beneath the window of his seventh ground KGB-guarded condo block. A ‘suicide note’ was discovered subsequent to his physique.
Yuri Voronov (left), 61, was discovered lifeless at his mansion close to St Petersburg with a gunshot wound to the top. Friend and criminologist Professor Oleg Karataev (proper) believes it was homicide and mentioned he was in an excellent temper once they final spoke
Voronov was discovered floating within the pool of his mansion in an unique a part of St Petersburg (Pictured above: neighbourhood)
Kruchina was chief of the Soviet Communist Party’s property division — which had property at house and overseas value billions of kilos. The KGB dominated that he had killed himself.
If so, then suicide grew to become a pattern in his circle. One month later, Georgy Pavlov, Kruchina’s 81-year-old predecessor on the property division, additionally fell to his loss of life from the window of his flat. Another ‘suicide’, the authorities declared.
Then, 11 days after Pavlov’s deadly plunge, Dmitry Lisoviolik, one other high-level apparatchik within the occasion’s monetary affairs — this time the worldwide division — did the identical. Another ‘suicide’.
What did these males have in widespread? All knew the occasion’s monetary secrets and techniques, significantly the whereabouts of these billions of public funds and commodities that had been ‘siphoned’ from the now apparently bankrupt state into enterprises overseas in opposition to simply such a wet day as this.
After the coup failed the occasion was over, actually. But the huge, gathered hidden wealth continued to exist. This invisible economic system was overseen by the KGB, of whom at the moment, Putin was a rising star. A tried and examined methodology of protecting secrets and techniques? Or once more, only a sequence of disagreeable coincidences?
The newest ‘suicide’, Voronov, was head of a transport and logistics firm that had profitable contracts with, sure, Gazprom.
The pool through which he was discovered is large and round, with sculpted grass banks. It is located some 50 metres from the businessman’s massive dacha in an unique rural settlement close to St Petersburg. According to reviews, a semi-automatic Grand Power pistol was discovered ‘nearby’ and there have been spent shell casings within the pool.
What or who did for Mr Voronov, if not himself? No guests had been recorded on the CCTV cameras at his house, apparently.
He is claimed to have been concerned lately in a ‘quarrel with partners’ and his spouse reportedly informed investigators that the lifeless man felt he had been swindled out of ‘a lot of money’: he was ‘depressed’.
Nonetheless, family and friends reject any suggestion that he died by his personal hand. One of these sceptical pals occurs to be Professor Oleg Karataev, a criminologist and dean of the regulation college at a St Petersburg college.
He mentioned of Mr Voronov: ‘He did not do this. He was killed.
‘The last time we spoke was a few days ago by phone [and] Yuri was in a great mood. He was generally a cheerful person.’
A cheerful man who killed himself, then. But on Putin’s watch, something goes.