Surprise death of Russian senator is latest in series of mysterious tragedies

The sudden death of a Russian senator with close ties to the Kremlin has been described as a "terrible tragedy", but is shrouded in mystery.

Vladimir Lebedev, who was 60-years-old and had previously worked for Russian energy giant Lukoil, passed away unexpectedly earlier this week. Lebedev was known to have strong business connections with Vladimir Nekrasov, the chairman of Lukoil's board of directors, who also died suddenly last month.

He was also a good friend and hunting buddy of Sergei Kiriyenko, one of Putin's closest aides in the Kremlin. The cause of Lebedev's death was initially reported as a heart attack, but no further details were provided.

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Lebedev had been sanctioned by Britain, the EU and US for his support of Putin's war against Ukraine. He and Kiriyenko were part of a group of devoted young communists who rose to power after the fall of the Soviet Union.

This week, Nikolay Vasyov, 42, a top banker at state-owned Sberbank, died due to a "heart attack". In another shocking incident, Lebedev, who previously held high-ranking positions at Lukoil subsidiaries and was close to Vladimir Nekrasov, 66, chairman of the Lukoil board, also died "suddenly" from "acute heart failure".

Since the war began nearly two years ago, there has been a series of mysterious deaths in Russia, particularly those connected to the energy and banking sectors. Last year, Lukoil tycoon Ravil Maganov, 67, fell from a window of Moscow's elite Central Clinical Hospital, also known as the 'Kremlin clinic'.

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Although there were suspicions of foul play, it was officially stated that Maganov, who had a longstanding heart problem, fell from a sixth-floor window and died instantly. On the same morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had earlier honoured Maganov with a top award, visited the hospital to pay his final respects to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who had passed away the same week.

In May 2022, billionaire Alexander Subbotin, 43, a top manager at energy giant Lukoil, was found dead after reportedly "taking advice from shamans". One theory suggests that Subbotin, who also owned a shipping company, was poisoned by toad venom, which triggered a heart attack.

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