Questions have been raised after four wealthy businessmen were recently found dead of apparent “suicide” in odd circumstances, as they all reportedly had Kremlin ties
Mystery surrounds the recent ‘suicides’ of four Russian gas business executives who are believed to be linked to Vladimir Putin ‘s circle – with the deaths widely deemed ‘suspicious’.
Multimillionaire Sergey Protosenya, 55, was found dead by hanging in Spain, with his wife Natalia, 33, and their teenage daughter Maria found hacked to death with an axe inside the apartment.
Protosenya was a former deputy chairman of Novotek, a company closely linked to the Kremlin.
Just days earlier, business executive Vladislav Avayev, 51, an ex-vice-president of Gazprombank and former Kremlin official, was found dead in his Moscow penthouse alongside his wife Yelena, 47, and teenage daughter, Maria.
In both cases, there are widespread suspicions that the deaths may have been staged as suicides, although detectives are still investigating.
According to Telegram channel ‘Mozhem Obyasnit’ , the two incidents “are united by the former places of work of the victims – both are connected with Putin’s inner circle”.
However, there have also been two other deaths of prominent gas industry executives this year.
The day after the Ukraine war started, on 25 February, the body of Alexander Tyulakov, 61, a senior Gazprom financial and security official at deputy general director level, was discovered by his lover.
His neck was in a noose in his £500,000 home, however reports say he had been badly beaten shortly before he “took his own life”.
In the same Leninsky gated housing development in Leningrad region three weeks earlier, Leonid Shulman, 60, head of transport at Gazprom Invest, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in a pool of blood on his bathroom floor.
The contents of a note which were found have not been disclosed, and the Russian Investigative Committee reportedly refused to discuss the deaths.
On the latest death in Spain, a source close to Sergei Protasenya says that he had a “perfect family”, says a Moscow report.
The source does not believe that he killed his family, said a Telegram channel Toad and Viper, covering corruption.
It was revealed he died due to a legal battle over his shares in a Cyprus company, with Western sanctions freezing many fortunes in Russian businesses.
Protosenya, who reportedly had a fortune of $440 million, had been chief accountant of Novatek company, the largest independent producer of natural gas in Russia, between 2002 and 2014, and later vice president.
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Novatek is co-owned by close Putin friend Gennady Timchenko and the privileged giant had been recently excluded from the Kremlin leader’s edict to trade energy only in rubles.
The company is also closely linked to Pyotr Kolbin, a Putin childhood friend, allegedly a “shadow holder of Putin’s wealth”.
Avayev’s former employer Gazprombank is also seen as close to Putin circle – allegedly used by the president and his relatives and cronies.
And Gazprombank was chosen by Putin as authorised to receive Western payments for gas in rubles.
Alayev had a joint venture business on leaving Gazprombank with a daughter of a high level executive of Rostec, another Putin friend.
Mozhem Obyasnit’ said: “So, under strange and similar circumstances, the families of managers of two key private companies managing the money of Putin’s entourage die.”
The pro-Kremlin media has been briefed that Alayev had “tortured his wife for several hours before killing her – beating and shooting her in the legs and arms” believing she was pregnant by another man.
He suspected her of infidelity with his driver who had “fled to Moldova”, and tried to make her confess by shooting her in her limbs before killing her, it is claimed.
“The last straw was the news of her pregnancy,” said a report by Mash.
However other sources have denied she was pregnant and a rage of jealousy does not explain why he killed their daughter.
While there were differences between the couple, these were being resolved in court, it is said.
Police in Spain say the prime hypothesis is that Protosenya killed his wife and daughter with an axe before taking his own life at a luxury villa in Catalan resort town of Lloret de Mar.
But the case remains “open” with some elements that did not suggest a domestic violence case. Russian detectives are keeping open other options that double murder and suicide in the Avayev case.
Details of the other two cases are thought to sketchy with Gazprom’s security service playing a leading role in investigating “suicides” in an upmarket residential complex for company high fliers.