The former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin who died in a Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2015 suffered a complete neck fracture "at or near the time of his death," The Associated Press reported on Saturday.
Document’s from the city’s medical examiner, which were recently released to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealed the new information, though RFE reported that the finding “offers no clear-cut evidence of foul play in the death of Mikhail Lesin,” the AP said.
The official cause of death for the 57-year-old Lesin was blunt force trauma, incurred after he repeatedly fell in his hotel room due to intoxication — but his death has been shrouded in mystery from the very beginning.
Many found it difficult to believe a man could sustain such extensive injuries simply by falling down drunk in his hotel room. According to the coroner’s report, Lesin sustained “blunt force injuries to his neck, torso, upper extremities, and lower extremities,” Buzzfeed News reported last year.
The latest revelation that his neck was completely fractured only renews suspicion that Lesin’s death was anything but an accident.
In 2017, an FBI agent told Buzzfeed News that no one believed the accident story:
“What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died,” the agent said. “Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”
Citing four independent sources, including former British spy Christopher Steele of the Trump dossier fame, Buzzfeed News said Lesin had fallen out of favor with a Russian oligarch close to Putin and was ordered to be beaten but not killed.
Lesin himself was once closely tied to Putin, having risen to become one of Russia’s most powerful media officials and working to muzzle “anti-Putin critics by helping the Kremlin consolidate control over the country’s mass media.”
He also founded Russia Today, now known as RT, which is a state-funded media outlet that broadcasts in the U.S. both on cable and online.
The AP noted that Lesin abruptly resigned from RT in 2014, which led to suspicion that the media mogul had fallen out of favor with Putin.
Lesin’s death caused concern among American politicians that the Kremlin could possibly order a hit on U.S. soil and get away with it, Buzzfeed News said.
“It is not inconceivable that the Kremlin could use its security services in the United States as it has elsewhere,” a 2017 report from Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said. “The trail of mysterious deaths, all of which happened to people who possessed information that the Kremlin did not want made public, should not be ignored by Western countries on the assumption that they are safe from these extreme measures.”