Putin Associate Found Dead in DC Hotel ~ MIKE LEVINE, JUSTIN FISHEL, ABC News, Nov 6, 2015.
A prominent Russian millionaire with high-level ties to the Kremlin has been found dead inside a Washington hotel, a Russian official and a senior U.S. official told ABC News.
Mikhail Lesin, the former head of media affairs for the Russian government who’s been accused of curtailing the country’s press freedoms, had been staying at Hotel Dupont when he was found Thursday, according to officials.
It’s unclear why the long-time adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Washington, but the Metropolitan Police Department is now investigating his death. On Thursday, U.S. authorities notified the Russian embassy in Washington that one of its citizens had died, and Russian officials are now working with American authorities to determine the circumstances of the death, the embassy told ABC News in a statement.
Citing an ongoing investigation, an MPD spokesman would only confirm the department is conducting a “death investigation.”
Lesin is credited with creating Russia Today, the English-language news network backed by the Russian government. Now known as RT, the network “provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints an international audience with the Russian viewpoint,” according to its website.
Lesin “led the Kremlin’s efforts to censor Russia’s independent television outlets,” one U.S. lawmaker charged last year.
In fact, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), called on the Justice Department to launch an investigation into Lesin over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
In a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Wicker said Lesin had “acquired multi-million dollar assets” in Europe and the United States “during his tenure as a civil servant,” including multiple residences in Los Angeles worth $28 million.
“That a Russian public servant could have amassed the considerable funds required to acquire and maintain these assets in Europe and the United States raises serious questions,” Wicker wrote.
It’s unclear if the FBI ever begun a probe.
From 1999 to 2004, Lesin served as Russia’s Minister of Press, Television and Radio, often traveling with Putin on official trips. In 2013, he became head of Gazprom-Media Holding, the state-controlled media giant that describes itself as one of the largest media groups in Russia and Europe. Lesin resigned the next year, reportedly citing family reasons.
A former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been found dead in Washington DC, Russian officials say.
Mikhail Lesin, 57, Russia’s former press minister and a one-time head of the powerful Gazprom-Media Holding group, died on Thursday, they said.
Russian media, quoting his family, said he suffered a heart attack.
The Washington Post quoted Russian embassy officials as saying Mr Lesin’s body was found in a room at the Dupont Circle hotel.
It reported that police were investigating the death of a man but that he had not yet been formally identified.
Last year, Mississippi senator Roger Wicker called for an investigation into Mr Lesin, saying his fortune “raises serious questions”.
In a letter to the US Department of Justice, Sen Wicker said Mr Lesin bought property worth $28m (£18.6m) in Los Angeles for his family after finishing work as a civil servant.
Sen Wicker asked how a former civil servant would have been able to buy and maintain expensive property, and expressed concern their purchase may have involved people and groups on a US sanctions list.
BBC Russian said Mr Lesin was for a long time considered one of the most influential figures in the Russian media market and in the corridors of power.
Mr Lesin worked as an aide to the presidency between 2004 and 2009, when he helped advise on the creation of the news channel Russia Today.
Late on Friday, Mr Putin hailed “the enormous contribution made by Mikhail Lesin to the formation of modern Russian media”, according to Tass.
Last year, Mr Lesin was accused of trying to force a radio station in which he was a shareholder to cut an interview with opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
And Sen Wicker’s letter said Mr Lesin “led the Kremlin’s effort to censor Russia’s independent television outlets”.
He resigned from Gazprom-Media last year.
The Ria-Novosti agency said he leaves a wife, son and daughter.