The reported death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary group, has sparked widespread speculation as to the cause of the plane crash he is believed to have been involved in.
Prigozhin was reportedly on the passenger list of a private jet which went down almost 185 miles north of Moscow on Wednesday, according to Russian authorities.
His apparent death comes two months after he launched a failed coup attempt against the Russian military.
While UK ministers have publicly urged against jumping to conclusions, US President Joe Biden has been less circumspect, saying: “I don’t know for a fact what happened but I’m not surprised. There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind.”
The case has brought back into public consciousness the unusual ways a handful of Russian oligarchs, industry leaders and Kremlin critics have lost their lives in unusual circumstances.
Name: Pyotr Kucherenko
How he died: Reportedly fell ill on a plane carrying Russian delegates home after a business trip to Cuba in May 2023.
Deputy Science Minister Kucherenko, 46, was reportedly critical of the invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education said he “became ill” while on board the plane, which made an emergency landing in southern Russia but he could not be saved.
According to CNN, journalist Roman Super said on his Telegram channel that Kucherenko had feared for his safety.
Read more: Russian Deputy Minister Dies Suddenly After Slamming ‘Fascist Invasion’ of Ukraine (Daily Beast)
Name: Dmitry Zelenov
How he died: Reportedly fell down a flight of stairs while visiting friends in the French Riviera in December 2022.
The Russian real estate tycoon, 50, had been dining with friends in Antibes when he suddenly became unwell, falling down a flight of stairs and suffering critical head injuries.
The former owner of Russian developer Don-Stroy and had previously been listed in Forbes list of Russian billionaires.
Read more: Another Russian Oligarch, Dmitry Zelenov, Dies Under Mysterious Circumstances (Daily Beast)
Name: Anatoly Gerashchenko
How he died: Died after falling “from a great height” at Moscow’s Aviation Institute (MAI) headquarters in September 2022.
The MAI’s press office called the 73-year-old’s death “the result of an accident.”
Garashchenko had worked at the organisation for 45 years, working his way up to ‘Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor [and] Advisor to the Rector of MAI’.
According to CNN, Gerashchenko became at least the sixth influential Russian linked to the country’s two largest energy companies to have reportedly died by suicide or in unexplained accidents last year.
Name: Ivan Pechorin
How he died: Died after falling from a moving boat off the Russian coast in September 2022.
Pechorin reportedly fell off his boat close to Russky Island near Cape Ignatiev. His death was reported as drowning. According to The Hill, Pechorin was the managing director of the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation (ERDC), the body responsible to resolving and furthering Moscow’s social and economic interests in the region, including making the area an attractive one for businesses to invest.
Read more: Kremlin ally died falling down the stairs, report says (Business Insider)
Name: Pavel Antov
How he died: Fell from a hotel room in India in December 2022.
Millionaire and ‘sausage tycoon’ Antov had been critical of Putin’s war with Ukraine.
In June 2022, it was claimed he had criticised a missile bombardment, calling it “terrorism” in a WhatsApp message, but he said it had been sent by someone else, insisting that he supported Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In December 2022, the 65-year-old died after reportedly falling from a hotel room in India where he was holidaying with three other Russian nationals. Russia’s consul-general in Calcutta insisted there was no foul play in the lawmaker’s death.
His death came two days after another member of the travel party, Vladimir Bidenov, also died.
Read more: Russian sausage tycoon who criticised Ukraine invasion falls to death from hotel window (Telegraph)
Name: Alexander Subbotin
How he died: Found dead ‘in a shaman’s home’ outside Moscow.
Link to Putin: Subbotin, 43, was a top executive for the oil and gas firm Lukoil. He was found dead in May 2022 in a shaman’s home in Mytishchi, a city northeast of Moscow, Russian news agency TASS reported.
Lukoil had publicly opposed Russia’s actions in Ukraine, releasing a statement expressing its “deepest concerns” about the war in Ukraine
Read more: ‘Toad poison” hangover treatment reportedly kills Russian oil executive (CBS News)
Name: Ravil Maganov
How he died: Fell from a hospital window in Moscow in September 2022.
Link to Putin: Maganov was chairman of the oil and gas company Lukoil.
Russian state news agency TASS reported his death as a suicide, citing a law enforcement source, but in a statement Lukoil said he died “following a severe illness”, leaving his death shrouded in mystery.
Read more: Russian oil executive ‘dies after falling from Moscow window’ (Yahoo News)
Name: Alexander Perepilichny
How he died: Found dead near his luxury home on an exclusive gated estate outside London in November 2012 after going out jogging.
The 44-year-old Russian was found dead near his luxury home on an exclusive gated estate outside London after he had been out jogging in November 2012.
Alexander Perepilichny sought refuge in Britain in 2009 after helping a Swiss investigation into a Russian money-laundering scheme. His sudden death raised suggestions he might have been murdered.
British police ruled out foul play despite suspicions he might have been murdered with a rare poison. A pre-inquest hearing heard that traces of a rare and deadly poison from the gelsemium plant was found in his stomach.
Perepilichny had enjoyed a large bowl of soup containing sorrel, a popular Russian dish. Russia denied involvement.
Read more: Russian whistleblower probably died of natural causes, UK inquest finds (Reuters)
Name: Alexander Litvinenko
How he died: Poisoned with polonium-210, according to British security services
Litvinenko was a former Russian spy who had previously worked for the FSB but defected to the UK.
An inquiry into his death and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) both ruled that Russia was responsible for his killing.
Possible motives included Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence agencies after fleeing Russia, his criticism of the FSB, and his association with other Russian dissidents.
It was said there was also a “personal dimension” to the antagonism between him and Putin.
The Litvinenko inquiry found that the radioactive substance used to kill Litvinenko could only have come from a nuclear reactor, which was a “strong indicator” of Russian state involvement in his death. The Kremlin has denied involvement.
Read more: Russian accused of killing Alexander Litvinenko reportedly dies from Covid-19 (Evening Standard)
Name: Anna Politkovskaya
How he died: Shot dead outside her flat in Moscow in October 2006 after returning home from the supermarket.
A journalist who reported on human rights abuses, Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her flat in Moscow in October 2006 after returning home from the supermarket. The murder of Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, provoked an outcry in the West and underlined concerns about the dangers to reporters working in Russia.
Read more: 5 found guilty of Moscow journalist’s 2006 killing (AP)