Report: Ex-Putin adviser who died after fall in U.S. had broken neck
Associated Press
March 16, 2019
March 16, 2019 4:43 PM EDT
In this Nov. 7, 2015, file photo, the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington where Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead on Nov. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
WASHINGTON ó Newly released documents show that a former adviser to Russiaís president sustained a complete fracture of his neck ďat or near the time of his deathĒ in a Washington hotel room in 2015.
The documents from the cityís medical examiner were released to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed nearly two years ago.
In a report published Saturday, RFE said the finding offers no clear-cut evidence of foul play in the death of Mikhail Lesin, who was a key adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin during Putinís rise to power.
But RFE said the documents provide ďthe most precise scientific descriptionĒ yet of a death thatís been shrouded in suspicion.
The official ruling was that Lesin, 57, died accidentally of blunt force trauma after falling repeatedly in his room while intoxicated.
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Yet there is intrigue surrounding the case, fed by circumstantial evidence: It seems odd for someone Lesinís age to die of blunt force trauma while alone in a room. There is also a gap in security video footage for the hours after Lesin was last seen alive. The police report eventually released to the public has been heavily redacted.
Above all, there is a long history of high-profile Russians turning up dead or seriously ill in foreign countries.
RFE said the documents released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show that Lesinís hyoid bone had been completely fractured. An official, whose name was redacted, is quoted as saying such breaks ďare commonly associated with hanging or manual strangulation,Ē but that it was also possible that the bone was damaged during the autopsy.
Lesin had amassed a fortune through a company he set up in the 1990s to sell television advertising. He then spent years as Putinís media czar, helping bring national television under Kremlin control during Putinís rise to power. Later he founded the global news network Russia Today, now known as RT. But he abruptly resigned in December 2014 and was believed by some Moscow-watchers to have fallen out of favour with the Putin government.