Was murdered Putin crony about to sing to the FBI?

A provocative story in the Daily Beast about the death last November in Washington of Russian media mogul and Putin crony Mikhail Lesin speculates that he was murdered because he was about to snitch to the FBI.

Two months after Lesin's death in a hotel room at DuPont Circle, the coroner has yet to report his findings. Lesin, who started the Russian propaganda TV network Russia Today, had apparently been under investigation by the FBI for money laundering and other crimes.

But there's no explanation for what he was doing in Washington.

Lesin amassed a fortune the old fashioned Russian way - he stole it. The owner of the largest independent TV network in Russia, NTV's Vladimir Gusinsky, was arrested on trumped up charges following several reports critical of Putin. Lesin said the charges would go away if he sold his company to the energy giant Gazprom. When Gusinsky refused, Lesin took over the company anyway.

Putin's propagandist bought $30 million in LA real estate with his ill gotten gains, and the FBI is investigating where that money came from, considering that Lesin purchased that property while earning a civil servant's salary. 

But if Lesin was being turned by the FBI, what was he going to tell them?

The conspiracy theories are arguably well-founded, because it wouldn’t be the first time someone who posed a political threat to Putin wound up dead under unusual circumstances, including poisoning

Lesin was also being squeezed by the U.S. government. Two years ago he’d been nominated by human rights groups for the so-called Magnitsky list of Russian human rights violators, which would have allowed Washington to deny him a visa and seize his assets in this country. Lesin was not placed on the public list, which consists mainly of mid-level officials not as influential as the former propaganda chief. But U.S. officials maintain a classified annex which reportedly includes more senior Russians, including those closer to Putin. It’s not known whether Magnitsky was on that list, but activists lobbied hard to put him there.

He would have been an ideal candidate. Not only was he one of RT’s founding fathers, credited with conceiving of the network while working for Putin in order to counter what he saw as anti-Russia journalism in the West. (“It’s been a long time since I was scared by the word propaganda,” Lesin said in 2007, according to RT. “We need to promote Russia internationally. Otherwise, we’d just look like roaring bears on the prowl.”)

To save his own skin - and perhaps his fortune - Lesin may have been ready to deal with the FBI and name names. Now, we'll probably never know what he was going to tell investigators as another one of Putin's enemies dies under mysterious circumstances.

 

A provocative story in the Daily Beast about the death last November in Washington of Russian media mogul and Putin crony Mikhail Lesin speculates that he was murdered because he was about to snitch to the FBI.

Two months after Lesin's death in a hotel room at DuPont Circle, the coroner has yet to report his findings. Lesin, who started the Russian propaganda TV network Russia Today, had apparently been under investigation by the FBI for money laundering and other crimes.

But there's no explanation for what he was doing in Washington.

Lesin amassed a fortune the old fashioned Russian way - he stole it. The owner of the largest independent TV network in Russia, NTV's Vladimir Gusinsky, was arrested on trumped up charges following several reports critical of Putin. Lesin said the charges would go away if he sold his company to the energy giant Gazprom. When Gusinsky refused, Lesin took over the company anyway.

Putin's propagandist bought $30 million in LA real estate with his ill gotten gains, and the FBI is investigating where that money came from, considering that Lesin purchased that property while earning a civil servant's salary. 

But if Lesin was being turned by the FBI, what was he going to tell them?

The conspiracy theories are arguably well-founded, because it wouldn’t be the first time someone who posed a political threat to Putin wound up dead under unusual circumstances, including poisoning

Lesin was also being squeezed by the U.S. government. Two years ago he’d been nominated by human rights groups for the so-called Magnitsky list of Russian human rights violators, which would have allowed Washington to deny him a visa and seize his assets in this country. Lesin was not placed on the public list, which consists mainly of mid-level officials not as influential as the former propaganda chief. But U.S. officials maintain a classified annex which reportedly includes more senior Russians, including those closer to Putin. It’s not known whether Magnitsky was on that list, but activists lobbied hard to put him there.

He would have been an ideal candidate. Not only was he one of RT’s founding fathers, credited with conceiving of the network while working for Putin in order to counter what he saw as anti-Russia journalism in the West. (“It’s been a long time since I was scared by the word propaganda,” Lesin said in 2007, according to RT. “We need to promote Russia internationally. Otherwise, we’d just look like roaring bears on the prowl.”)

To save his own skin - and perhaps his fortune - Lesin may have been ready to deal with the FBI and name names. Now, we'll probably never know what he was going to tell investigators as another one of Putin's enemies dies under mysterious circumstances.