Mikhail Lesin, the co-founder of the state-funded television network RT and ex-Vladimir Putin confidant who was discovered dead in Washington D.C. last November, was killed by blunt force trauma to his head and torso, a medical examiner announced today.
This finding runs counter to the originally stated reason for Lesin’s death, which was that he died of a “heart stroke.” As Buzzfeed’s Miriam Elder points out, Russian media—including Lesin’s old network, RT—quoted only “a family member” in reporting that Lesin had died of natural causes. Further, RT, citing the state-owned news agency TASS, stated that “police found no signs of foul play,” which seems like it can’t possibly have been true.
Before founding RT (formerly known as Russia Today), Lesin was a press minister in Putin’s cabinet and also ran Gazprom-Media, Russia’s largest state-owned media property. Putin, of course, has long been suspected in the high-profile poisonings of ex-secret agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died, and Viktor Yushchenko, a Ukrainian politician who survived his attempted assassination, to say nothing of the several journalists who have wound up dead during Putin’s presidency.