(CNN) — At least eight prominent Russian businessmen have died by suicide or in unexplained accidents since the end of January, six of them associated with Russia’s two largest energy companies.
Four of those six were linked to Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom or one of its subsidiaries, while the other two were associated with Lukoil, Russia’s largest private oil and gas company.
Earlier this year, the company took the unusual public stance of speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine, calling for compassion for the victims and an end to the conflict.
Lukoil chairman Ravil Maganov died this week after falling out of a Moscow hospital window, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.
Lukoil confirmed the death Thursday in a statement posted on its website.
Maganov “passed away after a serious illness,” Lukoil said, without mentioning the fall. “Maganov contributed immensely to the development of not only the company, but the entire Russian oil and gas sector.”
Another top Lukoil manager, Alexander Subbotin, was found dead near Moscow in May after apparently visiting a shaman, TASS reported. Russia’s State News Agency quoted an official as saying authorities were called after a report of an unconscious man suffering from heart failure. TASS reported that the police have opened a criminal investigation into the case.
Links with Gazprom
In the first of the recorded deaths this year, a senior Gazprom executive was found dead at his country home in the town of Leninsky, near Leningrad, on January 30, 2022, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
RIA reported that a suicide note was found at the scene and that investigators were investigating the death as a suicide. The Russian national network RenTv identified the man as Leonid Shulman, head of transport for Gazprom Invest.
Just a month later, another top Gazprom manager was found dead in the same town. Alexander Tyulakov was discovered dead in his garage on February 25, according to Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper. Novaya Gazeta reported that he had died by suicide.
Gazprom has not responded to CNN requests for comment. CNN made a request for comment to the Russian Investigative Committee on the two cases, but has not received a response.
Two other Russian businessmen linked to Gazprom died in April in apparent murder-suicide incidents.
One of them, Vladislav Avayev, a former deputy chairman of Gazprombank, was found dead with his wife and daughter in their Moscow apartment on April 18, according to TASS.
TASS reported that authorities were investigating the Avayevs’ deaths as a murder-suicide case, according to a police source.
Yulia Ivanova, a representative of the Moscow Investigative Committee, was quoted by Tass as saying that a relative discovered the Avayevs’ bodies after the family’s driver and nanny told them they could not contact them by phone or enter the apartment. , as the door was locked from the inside.
Igor Volobuev, a former Gazprombank vice president who recently left Russia for Ukraine, told CNN that he did not believe Avayev had committed suicide.
“His job was to deal with private banking, that is, dealing with VIP clients. He was in charge of large amounts of money. So, he committed suicide? I don’t think so. I think he knew something and that he was some kind of risk” Volobuev told CNN in April.
Russia’s Investigative Committee did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the case.
Just one day later, on April 19, Sergey Protosenya, a former executive at gas producer Novatek, which is
partially owned by Gazprom, was found dead at his home in Lloret de Mar, a tourist center in the
Mediterranean near Barcelona.
The bodies of his wife and daughter, with signs of having suffered violence, were found inside the luxurious family home, an official source close to the investigation told CNN last week, while the body of Protosenya was found in the garden outside, according to the source.
Son questions initial conclusions
The Catalan police in the province of Girona, where the town of Lloret de Mar is located, told CNN on Friday that they have already completed their investigation into the case and have sent the conclusions to a court.
Police said their conclusion was that the deaths were a double murder and subsequent suicide.
Speaking to the Daily Mail in April, Protosenya’s son disputed that version of events, suggesting instead that his father was murdered.
“The Catalan police took the statement from the son. Other hypotheses have been ruled out. A triple homicide has also been ruled out,” the police press officer told CNN at the time. “That it was the work of the Russian mafia? Well, no,” added the official.
Novatek, Protosenya’s former employer, said he was “a wonderful person and a wonderful family man.”
“Unfortunately, there has been speculation on this subject in the media, but we are convinced that this speculation does not correspond to reality. We hope that the Spanish law enforcement forces will carry out a thorough and objective investigation and resolve what happened,” the company said in a statement.
Mikhail Watford, a Ukrainian-born Russian oil and gas billionaire, was found dead at his home in Surrey, England, on February 28.
Surrey Police told CNN they did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances.
Another Russian businessman, Vasily Melnikov, was found dead along with his family in Nizhny Novgorod in late March, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Melnikov owned MedStom, a medical supply company. According to the Russian Investigative Committee, a 43-year-old man, his 41-year-old wife, and two children, ages 4 and 10, were found stabbed to death on March 23.
The committee did not name Melnikov, but the ages of those killed and the location of the incident match Kommersant’s report.
The regional branch of the investigation committee has not updated the status of its investigation and did not return CNN’s request for comment. At the time of the incident in March, he said “there were no signs of unauthorized entry into the apartment” and “knives were found and seized.”
“[Los investigadores] They are considering various versions of what happened, including the murder of the children and the wife by the head of the family, followed by a self-inflicted death,” the committee said.
How to get help: in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988 beginning July 16, 2022. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide can also provide information on Contact crisis centers around the world.
— Uliana Pavlova, Anna Chernova, Frederik Pleitgen, Chris Liakos, Julia Horowitz, Zahid Mahmood and Al Goodman contributed reporting.