A RUSSIAN senator with close links to the Kremlin has died suddenly aged 60.
Vladimir Lebedev had connections to energy giant Lukoil – a company dogged by mystery deaths since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
He had close business ties to Vladimir Nekrasov, 66, chairman of the Lukoil board of directors, who died “suddenly” last month.
Lebedev was a longstanding friend and hunting partner of Vladimir Putin’s closest Kremlin aide, Sergei Kiriyenko, 61, a former Russian prime minister and the dictator’s deputy chief of staff.
The initial cause of Lebedev’s death was announced as a “heart attack”.
No further details were given.
But colleagues indicated he had been healthy and his death came as a “deep shock”.
Gleb Nikitin, the governor of Nizhny Novgorod region, which Lebedev represented in the senate, said: “All of us who knew him well and were friends with him were shocked… a terrible tragedy.”
Lebedev had been sanctioned by Britain, the EU and US for his ardent support for Putin’s war against Ukraine.
Lebedev and Kiriyenko were part of a group of devoted Young Communists who came into positions of power after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Earlier this week, a prominent banker Nikolay Vasyov, 42, senior vice president of state-owned Sberbank, died of a “heart attack”.
Lebedev held senior management positions in subsidiaries of Lukoil and was close to Vladimir Nekrasov, 66, chairman of the Lukoil board of directors, who last month died “suddenly” of “acute heart failure”.
Nekrasov had appointed him to serve alongside him on the board of Lukoil subsidiary TGC-8.
There has been a spate of mysterious Russian deaths – especially linked to the energy and banking sectors – since the war started.
Lukoil tycoon Ravil Maganov, 67, fell from a window of Moscow’s elite Central Clinical Hospital, also known as the Kremlin clinic, in September last year.
There were suspicions of murder but Maganov had been in hospital for a longstanding heart problem and fell from a sixth floor window, dying on the spot.
On the same morning, Putin – who had earlier decorated Maganov with a top honour – swept into the hospital to pay his final respects to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who had died the same week.
Billionaire Alexander Subbotin, 43 – also linked to energy giant Lukoil where he was a top manager – was found dead in May 2022.
One theory is that Subbotin – who owned a shipping company – was poisoned by toad venom triggering a heart attack.
Lukoil initially appeared less than loyal to Putin when the war started, demanding negotiations to end the fighting.
The company’s board including both Nekrasov and Maganov issued a statement on Putin’s invasion which “expresses its concern over the ongoing tragic events in Ukraine and its deepest sympathy to all those affected by this tragedy”.
“We are in favour of an early cessation of the armed conflict and fully support its resolution through the negotiation process and diplomatic means,” they said.