Isn’t it amazing how unlucky Russian oligarchs can be? They keep getting poisoned by toxic substances and/or falling from high places and/or while being shot in the head and/or stabbed and/or while murdering their family members and/or committing suicide.
The latest to fall smack into a spate of bad luck was 67-year-old Ravil Maganov, the chairman of Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer. This month he was going out for a harmless smoke from his hospital room, where he had been recovering from a heart attack, and somehow fell from a high place.
Suicide was listed as the cause of death by Russia’s most-mistrusted state news agency TASS. After all, according to TASS, Maganov was taking anti-depressants.
Lukoil issued a statement that its chairman had “passed away following a serious illness.” Indeed, given the nature of Russian state disinformation these days, choosing to do a swan dive from six stories could be defined as a serious illness.
Maganov’s “suicide” was the sixth such death of high-profile energy magnates in 2022.
CBS News reported that “Lukoil’s former top executive and board member Alexander Subbotin died [of a heart attack] after receiving dubious treatment from a shaman that involved an infusion of poison from a toad.” The shaman’s name is Alexey Pindurin, aka Magua. The toad was identified as a poisonous Australian cane toad.
Magua had given Subbotin his “hangover cure.” The news outlet Mash explained: “They would make an incision on the skin, dripped toad poison there, and after the patient vomited, he allegedly would feel better. 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.”
To help us sort out this cluster of calamities, Reuters and CNN, among other news outlets, have compiled an ongoing list. There is, or was, Leonid Shulman, 60, a mover and shaker at Gazprom Invest. In January of this year he was found dead of stab wounds in a cottage bathroom not far from St. Petersburg. He had been convalescing from a broken leg. Again, cause of death was suicide.
On February 25, another executive at Gazprom, Alexander Tyulakov, 61, was found dead in his garage in St. Petersburg. Cause? You guessed it: suicide.
Mikhail Watford, a Ukrainian-born Russian oil and gas billionaire, 66, was found dead from hanging at his home in Surrey, England, on February 28. A friend said, “His state of mind might have been affected by the situation in the Ukraine. The timing of his death and the invasion of Ukraine was surely not coincidental.”
Former VP of Gazprombank, Vladislav Avayev, 51, died in his luxury Moscow apartment along with his wife and daughter on April 18. Russian authorities were diligently investigating the deaths as a murder suicide. A neighbor is skeptical of that theory. “He had no reason to do that. He was rich, smart,” she said. “There‘s no way a man like that could kill. Maybe Avayev and his family were killed.”
Twenty-four hours later on April 19, Sergey Protosenya, a former higher-up at Novatek, owned by Gazprom, was found dead at his home in Lloret de Mar, near Barcelona on the Mediterranean. The bodies of wife and daughter were also discovered and “showed signs of having suffered violence.” Catalan police came to the conclusion that it was a double murder-suicide, not a triple homicide. Case closed.
One ‘Suicide’ at a Time
By no means is this a complete list, but let’s stop there and connect some dots. Almost all of these “suicides” involved energy executives with ties to Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom. Gazprom upset President Vladimir Putin’s fragile nerves by calling for an end to the war with Ukraine and by urging compassion for the innocent victims of the Russian invasion.
By now I think we know the misfortune that can befall anyone who opposes Putin. They might sip tea laced with radioactive isotope polonium-210 in a London hotel and suffer an agonizing death (Alexander Litvinenko).
They might have the bad luck of running into the nerve agent Novichok on the door handle of their home, again in London (Sergey Skripal and his daughter).
They might be assassinated on a Moscow bridge when, for some odd reason, the security cameras were not working (Boris Nemtsov).
They could poisoned in Siberia with a nerve agent, miraculously surviving, only to be thrown in a Russian prison to rot (Alexei Anatolievich Navalny).
Or one could be gunned down in the elevator of a Moscow apartment building (Anna Politkovskaya).
Welcome to Russia, circa 2022, run by a five-foot-seven dictator who will stop at nothing as he tries to restore the “glory” of the Soviet Union. (Think of five-foot-five Joseph Stalin, but with much better surveillance capabilities.)
While the world watches with collective impotence, any internal opposition to Putin’s megalomania magically disappears, one “suicide” at a time. Let’s hope that sooner than later he will reap the evil that he has sown.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.