Ex-Putin aide’s death ruled accidental in US
Mikhail Lesin, 57, a former press minister accused of curtailing media freedoms in Putin’s Russia, was found dead at the Dupont Circle Hotel on November 5, 2015, prompting wild theories of conspiracy over the murky death.
But following a nearly yearlong probe, “the Chief Medical Examiner of the District of Columbia has amended Mr Lesin’s manner of death from ‘undetermined’ to ‘accident’ with acute ethanol intoxication as a contributory cause of death,” prosecutors said in a statement.
It said the investigation by Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia with assistance from the FBI is now closed.
Russian state media reports, citing Lesin’s family, had said he died of a heart attack. Initial US findings appeared to suggest that he was killed.
Lesin’s sudden death triggered a host of conspiracy theories in Russia.
The US Attorney’s Office in Washington said Lesin entered his hotel room for the final time at 10:48 am on November 4, the day before he was found dead, “after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.”
“Based on the evidence, including video footage and witness interviews, Mr Lesin… sustained the injuries that resulted in his death while alone in his hotel room,” it added.
“After review of the video footage and new evidence developed from the investigation, the Chief Medical Examiner has determined that Lesin died as a result of blunt force injuries to his head, with contributing causes being blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities, which were induced by falls, with acute ethanol intoxication.”
Lesin helped launch the Russian English-language television network RT and allegedly amassed millions of dollars in assets in Europe and the United States while working for the government, including $28 million in real estate in Los Angeles.
Moscow, whose relations with Washington have plummeted over Ukraine and Syria, had intially voiced irritation at the handling of the case, complaining of not receiving detailed information.
Lesin was Russia’s minister of press, television and radio between 1999 and 2004, and later served as a Kremlin aide.
In 2013, he became head of Gazprom-Media Holding, the media arm of state energy giant Gazprom, and oversaw Russia’s top liberal radio station Echo of Moscow.
Lesin resigned a year later, citing family reasons.
In 2014, Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi called for a probe into Lesin on suspicion of money laundering and corruption.
“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.