Top Russian editor allegedly dies of stroke after 'suffocating' on business trip

Another prominent member of Russian society has died, the latest in a string of mysterious deaths among top businessmen and oligarchs in the embattled country.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Sungorkin, 68, editor-in-chief of major state newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, died “suddenly” after appearing to “suffocate,” according to the newspaper he used to helm.

The Kremlin confirmed the death Wednesday, calling his passing “a great loss to Russian journalism.”

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Sungorkin was in Primorye, in Russia’s far east, gathering material for an upcoming book and accompanied by his colleague Leonid Zakharov, when he died.

“It happened absolutely suddenly, nothing foreshadowed,” Zakharov wrote of the incident on Wednesday. “We were in the village of Roshchino. We were driving. We were already making our way towards Khabarovsk. We planned to get there in the evening today, and from there to Moscow. All was good.”

Zakharov says that Sungorkin suggested they take a break and “find a beautiful place somewhere … for lunch” just before going into medical distress.

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“Three minutes later, Vladimir Nikolaevich began to suffocate. We took him out into the fresh air. He was already unconscious,” Zakharov wrote. “The doctor who did the initial examination said that … apparently, it was a stroke. But this is the initial conclusion.”

Komsomolskaya Pravda was founded in 1925 as the official voice of the Central Committee of the Komsomol, the communist youth league. It is a pro-Kremlin publication that has been described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favourite paper.

Sungorkin had been working as the paper’s editor-in-chief and CEO since 1997. He was sanctioned by the European Commission in April after Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

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Sungorkin’s death comes just four days after another Russian elite, Ivan Pechorin, an energy executive, died under mysterious circumstances after he fell overboard from a speed boat Saturday night.

Before those two deaths this week, numerous other Russian oligarchs had died suspiciously in this year alone:

  • Ravil Maganov, chairman of the board of Russia’s largest private oil company Lukoil, died after falling out of the sixth-storey window of a hospital. Lukoil was one of a few Russian companies to call for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Alexander Subbotin, a former top manager for Lukoil, was found dead in the basement of a shaman’s house after allegedly receiving a hangover treatment involving toad venom.
  • Sergey Protosenya, a former executive at Novatek, the largest independent natural gas producer in Russia, was found hanged outside a Spanish villa along with the bodies of his wife and 18-year-old daughter. The deaths appeared to be a murder-suicide.
  • Vladislav Avayev, former vice-president of Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest bank, was found dead in his Moscow apartment along with the bodies of his wife and 13-year-old daughter. The deaths also appeared to be a murder-suicide. Avayev and his family were found one day before Protosenya and his family died.
  • Vasily Melnikov, owner of Medstom, a company that imports medical equipment into Russia, and his family were all found dead in their luxury apartment in Nizhny Novgorod. Melnikov, his wife, and their 10-year-old and four-year-old sons had been stabbed to death and the murder weapons were found at the crime scene. Investigators again concluded that the deaths were a result of a murder-suicide.
  • Mikhail Watford, a Ukrainian-born oligarch who made his millions as an oil and gas tycoon, was found hanged in the garage of his home in Surrey, U.K. Watford’s wife and children, who were home at the time, were not harmed. Watford changed his last name from Tolstosheya after moving to the U.K. in the early 2000s.
  • Alexander Tyulyakov, deputy general director of the treasury department for Gazprom, the largest publicly listed natural gas company in the world, was found hanged in the garage of his cottage. A note was found with his body leading investigators to conclude that Tyulyakov died by suicide.
  • Leonid Shulman, a top executive at Gazprom, was found dead in the bathroom of his cottage next to an apparent suicide note in the same neighbourhood where Tyulyakov would die a month later.

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