Since late January, at least five top Russian businessmen have died of apparent suicide, three of whom also allegedly killed family members. Another businessman’s death is still being investigated.
Four of the businessmen worked for Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy company, or one of its subsidiaries, CNN reported.
The first apparent suicide was Leonid Shulman, a top executive at Gazprom, who was found dead in his home outside Leningrad on January 30. Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti reported that a suicide note was found near the body.
On February 25, Alexander Tyulakov, another Gazprom executive, was found dead in the same village as Shulman, also by apparent suicide, according to independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Then, on February 28, Ukrainian-born Russian billionaire Mikhail Watford was found dead in his home in Surrey, England. His death is still being investigated by the coroner, so a cause is still unclear.
Next, on March 23, Vasily Melnikov, owner of a medical supplies company, was found dead alongside his wife and two children in Nizhny Novgorod, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported. The regional branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee, which did not name Melnikov but did report information lining up with his family, said there “were no signs of unauthorized entry into the apartment” and that “knives were found and seized.” The committee also reported that investigators “are considering several versions of what happened, including the murder of the children and wife by the head of the family, followed by self-inflicted death.”
Nearly a month later on April 18, Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprombank, was found dead with his wife and daughter in their Moscow apartment. Russian state news agency Tass reported that the deaths were being investigated as a murder-suicide. Another former vice president of Gazprombank, Igor Volobuev, insisted to CNN that Avayev wouldn’t have killed himself.
“His job was to deal with private banking, that means dealing with VIP clients. He was in charge of very large amounts of money. So, did he kill himself? I don’t think so. I think he knew something and that he posed some sort of risk,” Volobuev told the outlet.
Less than 24 hours later on April 19, a former executive at Russian gas producer Novatek, Sergey Protosenya, was also found dead alongside his wife and daughter. Novatek is partially owned by Gazprom. The wife and daughter were found inside the family’s home and showed signs of violence, while Protosenya’s body was found in the garden outside, a source told CNN. The outlet noted that the case is being investigated as a possible murder-suicide.
Protosenya’s son, however, said his father could never hurt his mother or sister.
‘He loved my mother and especially Maria my sister. She was his princess. He could never do anything to harm them. I don’t know what happened that night but I know that my dad did not hurt them,” Fedor Protosenya told the Daily Mail.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.