Yet another oligarch has met a mysterious end as the death toll among the Russian elite continues to climb amid Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Dmitry Zelenov, a real estate tycoon, died on December 9 in the French Riviera town of Antibes.
The oligarch, 50, was out to dinner with some friends when he began feeling unwell and tumbled down a flight of stairs, sustaining serious head injuries, according to Russian news outlet Baza and local French outlet Var Matin.
He was rushed to hospital but doctors were unable to save him and his death was confirmed by the public prosecutor in the nearby municipality of Grasse the following day.
According to Baza’s Telegram channel, Zelenov underwent surgery related to undisclosed heart problems in the weeks prior to his death, though no further information was provided.
Zelenov was a co-founder of Don-Stroy, once one of Moscow’s most significant real estate investment and development empires.
Having set up Don-Stroy in 1994 shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Zelenov rapidly racked up a fortune and regularly featured on the Forbes list of most wealthy Russians until 2008, when the financial crisis saw Don-Story suffer considerable financial losses.
The circumstances around the real estate tycoon’s death are remarkably similar to those of Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former head of Moscow’s Aviation Institute (MAI) who is said to have tumbled down a flight of stairs at the institute’s headquarters in the Russian capital in September.
‘On September 21, 2022, Anatoly Nikolaevich Gerashchenko, Doctor of Technical Sciences, professor, adviser to the rector of the Moscow Aviation Institute, passed away as a result of an accident,’ the organisation’s press service said.
‘This is a colossal loss for the MAI and the scientific and pedagogical community.’
Gerashchenko, 73, spent a lifetime working with the institute, attending the university as an engineer before working his way up to run the operation for eight years.
He had received Russia’s Medal of the Order for Services to the Fatherland, First Class, and was a distinguished professor with more than 50 scientific publications who remained on as an influential advisor after retiring in 2015.
Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former head of Moscow’s Aviation Institute (MAI) reportedly slipped and tumbled down a flight of stairs at the institutes headquarters in the Russian capital this morning – the latest in a long list of senior Russian officials to have died in strange circumstances
MAI is one of Russia’s leading scientific research universities responsible for the development of aerospace technology and is closely linked to Putin’s Defence Ministry
Gerashchenko’s highly suspicious death came less than two weeks after Vladimir Putin’s point man for developing Russia’s vast Arctic resources ‘fell overboard’ while sailing off the country’s Pacific coast.
Ivan Pechorin, 39, was managing director of Putin’s Far East and Arctic Development Corporation and had recently attended a major conference hosted by the Kremlin warmonger in Vladivostok.
The pair are the latest in a long line of senior officials from Russia’s energy, technology and finance sectors linked to the Kremlin to die in suspicious circumstances in recent months.
Pechorin fell off the side of a boat in the waters close to Russky Island near Cape Ignatiev, said Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.
His body was found after a search lasting more than a day.
‘Ivan’s death is an irreparable loss for friends and colleagues, a great loss for the corporation,’ an official statement from the corporation read.
‘We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends.’
The corporation’s former CEO Igor Nosov, 43, also died suddenly in February, reportedly from a stroke.
Development of the Arctic – a rich source of oil and gas for Russia – is seen as essential amid sanctions and unprecedented economic problems facing Putin’s economy due to his war in Ukraine.
Pechorin was also responsible for the development of the air industry across the vast east of Russia, a sector under particular strain from Western economic curbs.
His death was just one of dozens of unexplained incidents from just before and during the war with Ukraine which have seen a slew of Russian powerbrokers meet a sticky end.
Every death has been passed off as an accident or suicide by authorities, but many believe that officials who are seen as a threat to Putin’s power, most likely due to the sensitive information to which they are privy, are simply being removed from the playing field.
On September 1, oil tycoon Ravil Maganov, 67, fell to his death from the sixth floor window of a Moscow hospital.
One report said the chairman of Lukoil – Russia’s second largest oil company – was ‘beaten’ before he was ‘thrown out of a window’, though this has not been independently confirmed.
Lukoil had previously voiced opposition to the war in Ukraine.
Maganov’s death came shortly before Putin arrived at the elite Central Clinical Hospital to pay his last respects to final Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who had died at the hospital just days earlier.
Two more deaths of Gazprom-linked executives were reported in elite homes near St Petersburg, stoking suspicions that the deaths may well have been murders
In July, Yuri Voronov, 61, head of a transport and logistics company for a Gazprom-linked company, was found dead in his swimming pool amid reports of foul play.
Two more deaths of Gazprom-linked executives were reported in elite homes near St Petersburg, stoking suspicions that the deaths may well have been murders.
Alexander Tyulakov, 61, a senior Gazprom financial and security official at deputy general director level, was discovered by his lover the day after war started in Ukraine in February.
His neck was in a noose in his £500,000 home in the elite Leninsky gated housing development, yet multiple reports claim his body had been badly beaten, leading to speculation he was under intense pressure from bad actors.
That came just three weeks after Leonid Shulman, 60, head of transport at Gazprom Invest, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in a pool of blood on his bathroom floor in the same gated housing community.
Former Kremlin official and Gazprombank vice-president Vladislav Avayev, 51, appeared to have taken his own life after killing his wife and one of his daughters in April
Billionaire Alexander Subbotin, 43, also linked to Kremlin-friendly energy giant Lukoil where he was a top manager, was found dead in May.
One theory is that Subbotin – who also owned a shipping company – was poisoned by toad venom triggering a heart attack.
And in April, wealthy Vladislav Avayev, 51, a former Kremlin official closely linked to Russian financial institution Gazprombank, appeared to have taken his own life after killing his wife Yelena, 47, and daughter, 13.
Friends have disputed reports that he was jealous after his wife admitted she was pregnant by their driver, and there are claims he had access to the financial secrets of the Kremlin elite.
Ukrainian born multi-millionaire Yevgeny Palant, 47, and his wife Olga Palant, 50, were found stabbed to death in their family house in Moscow region last week
Several days later multimillionaire Sergey Protosenya, 55, was found hanged in Spain, after evidently killing with an axe his wife Natalia, 53, and their teenage daughter, Maria.
He was a former deputy chairman of Novatek, a company also closely linked to the Kremlin.
As with Avayev, it is suggested this may have been an assassination made to appear as a murder-suicide.
Last week a mobile phone multi-millionaire and his wife were found stabbed to death in yet another case which raised suspicions further.
Yevgeny Palant, 47, and his wife Olga, 50, both Ukrainian-born, were found by their daughter Polina, 20, having suffered multiple stab wounds.
An official briefing to the media claimed the woman took her own life in a jealous rage after Palant said he was leaving her – claims which were strongly disputed by the couple’s best friend.