Putin’s ex-adviser found dead in Washington had broken neck, say medical examiners

Mikhail LesinA former senior adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who died allegedly by falling while intoxicated in a luxury hotel room in Washington, may in fact have been strangled to death, according to a newly released medical examination. The body of Mikhail Yuriyevich Lesin, a well-known Russian media mogul, was found in the luxury Dupont Circle Hotel on November 5, 2015. He became famous in Russia soon after the collapse of the communist system, when he founded Video International, an advertising and public-relations agency that was hired by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to run his reelection campaign in 1995.

Yeltsin’s electoral success was partly attributed to the well-tailored media message projected by Lesin’s company. The media magnate was rewarded by Yeltsin, who offered him influential government posts, including that of director of Russia’s state-owned news agency Novosti. Meanwhile, Lesin became a media personality and frequently gave interviews espousing a free-enterprise model for the Russian media industry. But soon after Vladimir Putin’s ascendance to the presidency, Lesin saw the writing on the wall and began advocating for increased government regulation of media and telecommunications conglomerates. In 1999, Putin made him Minister of Press, Broadcasting and Mass Communications, a post he held for nearly six years, until 2004. In 2006, Lesin was awarded the Order for Merit to the Fatherland, one of the most prestigious civilian decorations in Russia.

But in late 2009, Putin abruptly fired Lesin from his post in the Kremlin’s Media Advisory Commission, allegedly because the media mogul had developed close contacts with Russian organized crime. Lesin’s ties with Putin’s inner circle were further strained in 2014, when he resigned from his position as head of Gazprom Media, after he clashed with pro-Putin executives on the board. When Lesin’s body was found in his hotel room by a member of the hotel staff, some suggested that he may have been killed by the Kremlin. But the Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, in cooperation with the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, said that Lesin’s death had resulted from injuries “induced by falls”, which came after “days of excessive consumption of alcohol”. The two agencies said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which assisted in the investigation into Lesin’s death, concurred with the results. Consequently, a heavily redacted police report was released to the public and the investigation was officially closed.

On Wednesday, however, the US government-owned Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) news outlet said it had acquired a detailed report on Lesin’s autopsy results, produced by the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The report, which RFE/RL acquired as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in late 2015, reveals that Lesin’s hyoid bone had been cut in two. The hyoid bone is shaped like a horseshoe and is located in the neck between the chin and the thyroid. The report quotes a medical examiner —whose name has been redacted— as saying that the state of Lesin’s hyoid bone was almost always a sign of “hanging or manual strangulation” or asphyxiation. Moreover, the report states that Lesin’s body bore “extensive bruising and cuts on legs, arms, hands, chest, face, and skull”.

RFE/RL said that the report did not prove beyond doubt that Lesin’s death came as a result of a deliberate attack by another party or parties. However, the descriptions provided by the examiners offered “the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death” and generated “many questions”, it said.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 March 2019 | Permalink | Research credit: Nikki P.

One Response to Putin’s ex-adviser found dead in Washington had broken neck, say medical examiners

  1. Anonymous says:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty v DCPD and FBI…? Why would an autopsy report be censored? Or is that some sort of privacy issue?

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