New findings surrounding the death of a prominent Russian political figure have cast a shadow of doubt over whether he actually died of natural causes. Mikhail Lesin, a 57-year-old media tycoon and aide to Russian president Vladimir Putin, was said to have died of a heart attack in a Washington hotel room, but a report released Thursday by the office of D.C.’s medical examiner reveals that the cause of death was actually blunt force trauma.
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At the time, Russia Today (RT) reported that Lesin had died of a heart attack, citing a statement made by a member of Lesin’s family. However, a joint statement from the Washington Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Metropolitan Police Department noted that Lesin also had “blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities,” at the time of his death.
Lesin’s seemingly mysterious death led to the circulation of several conspiracy theories. One such theory, as reported by The Daily Beast in January, claims that Lesin was poised to trade inside information about the Putin government in exchange for immunity from prosecution for money laundering and corruption charges. His murder, according to the conspiracy theory, was merely Putin’s inner circle keeping any sensitive information from leaking.
Lesin rose to prominence as the creator of RT, a Russian English-language media empire that has been accused of spreading propaganda on behalf of the Putin regime. He later served as a press minister and chief executive of communications goliath Gazprom-Media, a position he held until early 2015.
Another theory surrounding Lesin’s death speculates that the loss of his high-level position with Gazprom left him unable to pay back a massive debt owed to a prominent billionaire banker. Lesin tried to flee the wrath of several powerful rivals by emigrating to the United States, but one of his enemies managed to track him down and kill him regardless.