Here is a list of people you should not currently want to be: a Russian sausage tycoon, a Russian gas-industry executive, the editor in chief of a Russian tabloid, a Russian shipyard director, the head of a Russian ski resort, a Russian aviation official, or a Russian rail magnate. Anyone answering to such a description probably ought not stand near open windows, in almost any country, on almost every continent.
Over the weekend, Pavel Antov, the aforementioned sausage executive, a man who had reportedly expressed a dangerous lack of enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, was found dead at a hotel in India, just two days after one of his Russian travel companions died at the same hotel. Antov was reported to have fallen to his death from a hotel window. The meat millionaire and his also-deceased friend are the most recent additions to a macabre list of people who have succumbed to Sudden Russian Death Syndrome, a phenomenon that has claimed the lives of a flabbergastingly large number of businessmen, bureaucrats, oligarchs, and journalists. The catalog of these deaths—which includes alleged defenestrations, suspected poisonings, suspicious heart attacks, and supposed suicides—is remarkable for the variety of unnatural deaths contained within as well as its Russian-novel length.
Some two dozen notable Russians have died in 2022 in mysterious ways, some gruesomely. The bodies of the gas-industry leaders Leonid Shulman and Alexander Tyulakov were found with suicide notes at the beginning of the year. Then, in the span of one month, three more Russian executives—Vasily Melnikov, Vladislav Avayev, and Sergey Protosenya—were found dead, in apparent murder-suicides, with their wives and children. In May, Russian authorities found the body of the Sochi resort owner Andrei Krukovsky at the bottom of a cliff; a week later, Aleksandr Subbotin, a manager of a Russian gas company, died in a home belonging to a Moscow shaman, after he was allegedly poisoned with toad venom.
The list goes on. In July, the energy executive Yuri Voronov was found floating in his suburban St. Petersburg swimming pool with a bullet wound in his head. Think Gatsby by the Neva. In August, the Latvia-born Putin critic Dan Rapoport apparently fell from the window of his Washington, D.C., apartment, a mile from the White House—right before Ravil Maganov, the chairman of a Russian oil company, fell six stories from a window in Moscow. Earlier this month, the IT-company director Grigory Kochenov toppled off a balcony. Ten days ago, in the French Riviera, a Russian real-estate tycoon took a fatal tumble down a flight of stairs.
To reiterate: All of these deaths occurred this year. [Continue reading…]