Putin is probably behind the death of a mysterious leader in Russia
- Financier Bill Browder says Putin is likely behind a string of Russian leadership deaths.
- Calling them an “epidemic of murder”, he compared Putin to a mob boss extorting top businessmen.
- Putin could pressure them for money to help fund his assault on Ukraine, Browder said.
Financier Bill Browder said President Vladimir Putin was likely behind an “epidemic of murders” of many top Russian executives.
Browder, who until 2005 was Russia’s biggest foreign investor, is one of Putin’s most prominent critics. A string of unexplained deaths of more than a dozen Russian business figures is likely linked to Putin acting as the country’s “mafia boss”, Browder said.
He made the comments on a podcast published by Australian network ABC News on Sunday.
In 2022 alone, at least 15 leaders – most with close ties to Russia’s energy industries – have died in an unusual way. Russian authorities generally characterized them as accidents or probable suicides.
Browder described the various reported causes of death, including dramatic falls, drownings and murder-suicides.
“Generally in Russia, if someone dies in this way, it should be considered suspicious,” he said.
“And when people in the same industry die that way, it feels like what I would call a murder epidemic.
“You should rule on foul play, not rule it out.”
Chain of Death
Those deaths include the apparent murder-suicide of Novatek executive Sergey Protosenya and most of his immediate family in Catalonia in April. He is still under investigation by Spanish authorities, local force Mossos D’Esquadra confirmed.
The body of Putin’s top man at the Russian Far East Development Corporation, Ivan Pechorin, also washed up on shore about 62 miles from Vladivostok in September after he reportedly fell from a a high-speed boat, according to local media.
One executive, Ravil Maganov, 67, was chairman of the board of energy major Lukoil, was reported by state-controlled media to have fallen from a hospital window in an apparent suicide. Six months earlier, Lukoil’s board had criticized Putin’s war in Ukraine.
But Browder said he did not believe Maganov’s death was likely to be retribution for his critics.
He said deaths were more likely to occur due to the cost of war in Ukraine.
“What I see is that because of the war, there is a lot less money, and when there is a lot less money, all the money that is there becomes much more coveted”, did he declare. “These people are all sitting in front of large cash flows or assets.”
Dark figures likely called for this “incredibly lucrative flow of money” to be redirected, he said. And when the leaders say no, “the best way to get that money flow is to kill him and then ask his replacement the same question.”
Asked about Putin’s role in all of this, Browder replied that Putin would get a slice: “My own experience says that Vladimir Putin is the head of the mafia. He’s the head of state, but he’s also the head of the Mafia.”
Little is known about Putin’s vast wealth, but multiple independent investigations have suggested that it is heavily interconnected to his network of oligarchs and their business holdings in a highly opaque way.
And that potential source of funding has been “eroded” by the West’s numerous sanctions against the oligarchs, Browder said.
“The only money that hasn’t really been sanctioned has been revenue from the oil and gas industry, and it needs more money now to fight its war,” he said.
Browder is the co-founder of successful fund Hermitage Capital, which invested heavily in Russia until his efforts to expose corruption ended in his expulsion from the country.
After his deportation, his lawyer, Sergei Maginitsky, was imprisoned and died there. Browder lobbied Congress to pass legislation in Maginitsky’s name to punish human rights abuses in Russia.