Two new suspicious deaths of millionaire critics of Putin

MIKHAIL METZEL / AFP Before an audience of Russian military leaders, Vladimir Putin drew up the Russian army’s program for 2023, always with the war in Ukraine and tensions with the West as primary concerns.


The oligarch and deputy Pavel Antov had distinguished himself in recent months by publishing a message critical of the war led by Russia in Ukraine. Illustrative photo.

RUSSIA – More deaths of oligarchs who question. Pavel Antov, one of the richest politicians in Russia, was found dead on Sunday, December 25 in India. Discovered in a pool of blood, he fell from the third floor of his hotel, according to a report by local police, who have opened an investigation. Two days earlier, his friend, businessman Vladimir Bydanov, died at the same facility.

Founder and vice-president of the Vladimir Standard group of companies, a major Russian sausage manufacturer, Pavel Antov has an estimated fortune of more than $150 million. A member of United Russia, the party of Vladimir Putin, he had come to take a vacation in India in Rayagada, in the state of Odisha, with four other people, including Vladimir Bydanov, according to local media NDTV and OdishaTV.

The discovery of the bodies of two Russian oligarchs in two days in the same hotel necessarily arouses suspicion and suggests an assassination, even if the investigation is still at a preliminary stage. In the past, Pavel Antov was notably illustrated by the publication of a message critical of the war led by Russia in Ukraine on social networks. A rare form of dissonance from an elected official, which was promptly removed and replaced with a creeping apology.

The track of suicide is privileged

Pointing to a Russian strike in Ukraine which had caused the death of a little girl, the millionaire had denounced a form of “terror” of the Kremlin on social networks. Faced with the bronca generated by his message, Pavel Antov had immediately deleted it, evoking a “technical error” and replaced the post with a proper apology message.

Two days before the discovery of the body of Pavel Antov, his friend Vladimir Bydanov, another businessman had been found dead in his hotel room, surrounded by numerous bottles of alcohol. Excessive consumption could therefore have been the cause of death, according to the local police. According to this same source, the track of suicide is for the moment privileged as for the death of Pavel Antov. This last “was in depression because of the death of his friend”said the PTI news agency, citing a police officer.

Informed of the deaths, the Russian authorities evoke a “tragedy”: “We are aware of the tragedy that happened in Odisha, where two of our fellow citizens died, the Russian Embassy in India told NDTV. We are in constant contact with the relatives of the deceased as well as with the local authorities. To our knowledge, the police do not yet see a criminal component in these tragic events.”

A long list of oligarchs who died in 2022

These two new deaths add to a long list of deaths of Russian oligarchs since the beginning of the war led by Russia in Ukraine. Each time, the circumstances suggest a suicide. It was thus the case of Sergei Protosenya, a gas multi-millionaire who was found hanged in his villa on the Costa Brava, Spain, on April 19. Beside him lay his wife and 18-year-old daughter, whose bodies were stabbed with stab wounds.

The day before, Vladislav Avayev, former number 2 of Gazprombank, the financial arm of the Russian energy giant and the third largest Russian bank, had also been found dead, his body riddled with bullets. Again, the bodies of his wife and son were discovered alongside him. A case immediately qualified as a double murder committed by the fifty-year-old followed by a suicide by the Russian state media, but whose story does not convince everyone.

Two other oligarchs suffered a similar fate earlier in the year. Like Mikhail Watford, a Russian entrepreneur discovered hanged at the end of February in the garage of his mansion in greater London. In mid-March, it was Vasily Melnikov, billionaire and boss of a large pharmaceutical firm, who was found dead in the company of his wife and their two sons, the four bodies stabbed multiple times in their apartment in Nizhny Novgord. in western Russia.

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Two new suspicious deaths of millionaire critics of Putin