It all sounds a bit like a scene from a James Bond movie – a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been found dead in a hotel room in Washington DC.
According to Russian state media, Mikhail Lesin, 57, died on Thursday.
He was Russia’s former press minister and one-time head of the Gazprom-Media Holding group – a powerful Russian media company who helped establish TV news channel Russia Today.
Police are investigating his death – the cause of death is currently unknown, but Russian media are reporting that Lesin’s family are attributing his passing to a heart attack.
His body was found at the luxury Dupont Circle hotel in downtown DC and, given Putin’s history, it’s perhaps not too surprising that Lesin’s death has aroused a bit of suspicion.
However, yesterday, Putin hailed “the enormous contribution made by Mikhail Lesin to the formation of modern Russian media”, according to Tass.
Lesin wasn’t exactly a popular figure in America either – last year, Mississippi senator Roger Wicker wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into Lesin’s enormous wealth.
Wicker was particularly interested as to how Lesin, a civil servant, could have amassed enough cash to buy a property in Los Angeles worth $28 million (£18.6m), raising questions about corruption and money laundering.
That a Russian public servant could have amassed the considerable funds required to acquire and maintain these assets in Europe and the U.S. raises serious questions.
Last year, Mr Lesin was also accused of trying to force a radio station in which he was a shareholder to cut an interview with high-profile opposition figure to the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny.
Basically, this guy wasn’t very popular at all so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this story, with more details about his death bound to come out over the coming days and weeks.
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