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Russia mystery over FOUR 'suicides' with one linked to 'shadow holder of Putin's wealth'

WorldRussia mystery over FOUR 'suicides' with one linked to 'shadow holder of Putin's wealth'

Two prominent Russian businessmen linked to the country’s gas industry have been found dead in separate apparent murder-suicides in recent weeks, which have prompted further investigations by police. Suspicions have now also been raised about two other Kremlin-linked officials who died earlier this year.

Police in Spain are investigating the death of Sergey Protosenya, a multi-millionaire Russian gas company executive who was found hanged at his luxury villa on the Costa Brava, and his wife and daughter, who died from multiple stab wounds.

According to the Mossos Catalan police force, the prime theory is that Ms Protosenya, 55, killed his wife Natalya, 33, and their 18-year-old daughter Maria as they lay in their beds before hanging himself.

The pair were found hacked to death with an axe while Mr Protosenya’s body was discovered hanging from railings outside the villa.

However, local reports state that the investigation is still open as evidence does not conclusively support the theory. No suicide note was found in the property and it appeared steps have been taken to ensure there were no fingerprints left on the murder weapons.

Mr Protosenya, who had an estimated fortune of £330million, had served as deputy chairman of the natural gas company Novotek, which is closely linked to the Kremlin.

The Catalan police are currently awaiting the results of post-mortem examinations on the three bodies, according to the Telegraph.

Police were also checking whether images from the villa’s security cameras showed if anyone from outside the family had entered the home in the hours before their deaths.

The body of Vladislav Avayev, 51, a former Kremlin official and executive of Gazprombank, was discovered just days earlier.

Mr Avayev was found in his elite Moscow penthouse alongside his wife Yelena, 47, and 13-year-old daughter Maria in another apparent murder-suicide.

The ex-Kremlin official under Putin had also served as vice president at Gazprombank, created to work for Russian gas giant Gazprom.

In both cases, there are suspicions the deaths may have been staged suicides, the Daily Mail reported.

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.”

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Novatek and Gazprombank have both been affected by Western sanctions against Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Gazprombank is one of the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas and is seen as close to Putin’s inner circle.

Last month, in retaliation against western sanctions, Putin demanded that foreign countries must open accounts with Gazprombank in order to pay for Russian gas.

Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, has also been subjected to Western sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

It is reportedly owned by Putin’s close friend Pyotr Kolbin, who has been dubbed a “shadow holder of Putin’s wealth”.

The similarity of the deaths to each other, both involving double-murder suicides, have also aroused suspicion.

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The incidents also come soon after two other deaths of high-profile gas industry executives earlier this year.

The body of Alexander Tyulakov, 61, was discovered by his lover on February 25, the day after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Tyulakov, a senior Gazprom financial and security official, was found with his neck in a noose at his £500,000 home in the Leningrad region.

Reports indicated he had been badly beaten shortly before he “took his own life”, leading to speculation he may have been forced to commit suicide.

Three weeks earlier, Leonid Shulman, 60, who was head of transport at Gazprom Invest, was found stabbed to death in the same gated housing development.

Mr Shulman was dead on his bathroom floor with multiple stab wounds. A knife discovered nearby was reportedly out of reach.

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