Speed Reads

Bad Fall

Lukoil chairman dies after falling from Moscow hospital window under nebulous circumstances

The chairman of Lukoil, Russia's largest private company and No. 2 oil company, died Thursday morning after falling from a sixth-floor window of Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital, where he was being treated for a heart attack, the state-run Tass news agency reported. Lukoil confirmed the death of Ravil Maganov, 67, but said only that he had "passed away following a severe illness."

"It was not clear whether Maganov's death was an accident, a suicide or something more sinister," and "conflicting theories immediately emerged in the Russian media," The Washington Post reports. Tass citied an unidentified police source suggesting the death was suicide, while online outlet Baza reported he might have slipped while smoking on a balcony. 

"Maganov's unexplained fall is at least the sixth fatal incident this year involving high-profile Russian oil and gas executives whose lives ended in gory or murky circumstances," the Post adds, including former Lukoil tycoon Alexander Subbotin, who died in Moscow of a heart attack in May after reportedly seeking alternative treatments from a shaman who offers his clients toad poison injections. 

Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov resigned in late April after being sanctioned by Western countries over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Lukoil was the only Russian oil company to have spoken out against the invasion, expressing "concern over the ongoing tragic events in Ukraine" days after the Feb. 24 invasion and calling for "the immediate cessation of the armed conflict."

Critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin fall out of windows or off roofs frequently enough that any such death arouses suspicion. "Whenever someone who is in a negative view of the Putin regime dies suspiciously, one should rule out foul play, not rule it in," former Moscow financier Bill Browder told Politico after fellow prominent Putin critic Dan Rapoport fell to his death from a luxury apartment in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 14, carrying $2,620 in cash but no wallet or credit cards.

D.C. police appear to be treating Rapoport's death as a suicide, and his circle of Russian exiles offered mixed opinions to Politico. "There's an old saying that anyone can commit a murder but it takes brains to commit a suicide," said longtime Moscow correspondent David Satter. But Fiona Hill, the former senior White House Russia specialist, said suicide was a distinct possibility. "Not every unexplained death in Russia is the KGB or the GRU bumping someone off," she said.