Ivan Pechorin’s body washed ashore early this week near Vladivostok, on the Sea of Japan. According to the official statement, he fell from his boat on Saturday near the island of Russky, which is connected to Vladivostok by the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.
The cause is not clear. Vladivostok can experience severe storms at this time of year, but now the waters were calm on a sunny Saturday, the Russian newspaper noted. Komsomolskaya Pravda on. The newspaper speaks of a ‘tragic death’. And the KRDV was already hit by a tragic death in February: CEO Igor Nosov died after a stroke.
Last week, Ivan Pechorin shared the stage with Vladimir Putin at an economic forum in Vladivostok. There, the Russian president set out his ambitions for an alliance between authoritarian regimes and Asian countries. The natural resources in the north and east of Russia, mined by the KRDV, are important in forging those alliances; Putin, for example, would like to see a gas pipeline to China being built. As director of the aviation department of the KRDV, Pesjorin had the task of making the area more accessible by plane.
Russian energy giants
In itself, the death of a Russian businessman, albeit in an unusual way, may mean little. But it is the sum that raises questions. Twelve more comparable persons died in a relatively short time, with comparable unexplained facts.
At the end of January, Leonid Shulman was found dead in a country retreat in Leningrad Oblast. Next to Sjoelman’s body was a suicide note. He was a senior administrator at Gazprom. A month later – a day after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – police found another Gazprom driver dead with a suicide note: Alexander Tyulakov.
In March and April, Russian businessmen were found dead with their families. Vasily Melnikov of the medical company MedStom died with his wife and two sons in Nizhny Novgorod. In April, police in Moscow found Vladislav Avayev with his wife and daughter. The former driver of the Gazprombank had a gun in his hands. Sergei Protosenja also died with his family, in Lloret de Mar. Protosenja was a director at gas producer Novatek.
Aleksandr Subbotin died in perhaps the strangest way in early May. The director of oil company Lukoil underwent a voodoo ritual in a basement in Moscow that should have helped him get rid of a hangover, according to the Russian state news agency Tass. A shaman made an incision in the skin and would have dripped toad poison in it. Then Subbotin had a heart attack.
Out of the window
Then the list continues with accidental or not accidental falls. In early May, Andrei Krukovsky, the manager of a ski resort owned by Gazprom, fell from a cliff. Next, Rapoport, a Latvian-born American investor, lay dead on the sidewalk next to his Washington apartment complex. He made a lot of money in Moscow, until he clashed with the Russian authorities and became an outspoken opponent of Putin. Supporters question the reading that Rapoport committed suicide.
Ravil Maganov, Lukoil’s chief executive, was treated in a Moscow hospital for depression and heart problems. He died on September 1, when he fell from a window on the sixth floor. Lukoil was one of the few companies to call for an end to ‘the armed conflict’ in Ukraine in March.
The victims are mainly senior officials from the gas and oil industry and their causes of death are similar. But that’s pretty much the end of what can be said with certainty.
It is known that the Russian regime does not shy away from eliminating opponents. Take the murders of Aleksander Litvinenko and Boris Nemtsov and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Russia is also likely to be at the top when it comes to tumbles from the windows of people criticizing the head of state or other policy makers; the list of dissident doctors, bloggers, politicians and embassy employees who did not leave buildings through the ground floor exit is significant.
But the dead businessmen, barring a few like Rapoport, were not known for criticizing Putin. It remains unknown for the time being whether the fall from favor with Putin will lead to a fatal fall.