Russia and the threat of the open window

For some oligarchs in Putin’s Russia, business isn’t just dangerous, it’s proving to be fatal. Since we highlighted numerous “unexplained deaths” last May (Solidarity 636), another batch of prominent Russian business people have met with mysterious ends.

Some of the latest fatalities — Dan Rapoport, Ravil Maganov, Gregory Kochenov, Pavel Antov — slipped this mortal coil falling from those extremely unsafe Russian windows. Others suffered fatal falls from a motorboat (Ivan Pechorin) or down a flight of stairs (Anatoly Geraschenko. Dmitriy Zelenov).

The gunshot wound that saw off Pavel Pchelnikov was explained away as “suicide”, but the same could not be said in the case of Yuri Voronov, a subcontractor for Gazprom, found shot dead in his swimming pool in St Petersburg.

The weirdest death was that of billionaire Alexander Subbotin, a board member of Lukoil, the second largest energy company in Russia after Gazprom. He’d apparently died after visiting a shaman for a hangover cure consisting of toad’s venom! You couldn’t make it up. If John le Carré put stuff like that in a novel it would strain readers’ credulity. Needless to say, no one has been brought to book in Russia for being complicit in any of these deaths.

Though one might not be too upset about the demise of oligarchs who acquired their wealth basically from robbing the Russian people, not all those with an “unexplained” demise fit that category. The deaths include an editor of Komsomolskaya Pravda, a former head of the Moscow Aviation Institute, a director of logistics for Russian Railways, a director of an IT company and Director General of the Admiralty Shipyards.

What can we conclude from these deaths, of which many, if not all, must be murders? Putin’s Russia is a quasi-fascist police state and the crushing of dissent against the war against Ukraine a major priority for him. That some of the victims were from Lukoil and voiced major reservations about the invasion is significant.

However, the elimination of major figures in the murky world where business and the state cohabit has another dimension.

We only know about the deaths of prominent people. Sanctions have reduced the pie which can be cut up by the thieves and gangsters that predominate in Russian society, so there are bound to be more of them further down the food chain.

Though Putin’s grip on Russian society may appear solid, the deteriorating economy combined with massive casualties from a poorly trained army he is intent on sending into battle will surely undermine his dictatorial grip. All power then to anti war protesters in Russia itself who, despite consideration for their own safety, continue to stand up to this monstrous dictator and war criminal.