Mystery over FOUR ‘suspicious suicides’ of Russian gas execs: Two more top industry figures ‘linked to Putin’s circle’ are revealed to have killed themselves amid probes into ‘murder-suicides’ of two businessmen and their families
- Sergey Protosenya was found hanged in Spain with his wife and daughter killed
- Spanish police said no suicide note was left and no fingerprints were on weapon
- Earlier, Vladislav Avayev, his wife and daughter died in another ‘murder-suicide’
- In February, two further gas executives died in suspicious circumstances
Four recent ‘suicides’ of high profile Russian gas industry executives ‘with links to Vladimir Putin’ are all suspicious, sources have claimed.
Two wealthy businessmen were found dead along with their family members this week in Madrid and Moscow, but now suspicions are being raised about two Kremlin-linked figures who died earlier this year.
On Tuesday, the body of Sergey Protosenya, 55, was found hanged outside a Spanish villa, with his wife Natalia, 33, and their teenage daughter Maria found hacked to death with an axe inside.
Investigators initially assumed that Protosenya, who had a fortune of £330million, had killed himself in the Lloret det Mar villa in the Costa Brava.
But local reports said evidence does not conclusively point towards this explanation, as no suicide note was found in the property and it appeared steps had been taken to ensure there were no fingerprints on the murder weapons.
The businessman had served as deputy chairman of natural gas company Novotek, a company closely linked to the Kremlin.
Just days earlier, the body of Vladislav Avayev, 51, was found in his elite Moscow penthouse alongside his wife Yelena, 47, and daughter, Maria, 13, in another apparent murder-suicide.
Sergey Protosenya (right), 55, who had a fortune of over £330 million, is believed to have hacked his wife Natalia (centre) and their 18-year-old daughter to death before hanging himself in the courtyard of his Lloret de Mar villa on Spain’s Costa Brava (pictured together)
Vladislav Avayev (pictured), 51, was found in his elite Moscow penthouse alongside his wife Yelena, 47, and daughter, Maria, 13
Earlier this year, Alexander Tyulakov (left) and Leonid Shulman (right) also died in suspicious circumstances
Avayev was previously a vice president at Gazprombank – a bank that was created to work for Russian gas giant Gazprom – and had also been a Kremlin official.
In both cases, there are suspicions that the deaths may have been staged as suicides, but detectives are still investigating.
The two macabre incidents ‘are united by the former places of work of the victims – both are connected with Putin’s inner circle,’ according to Telegram channel Mozhem Obyasnit’, and they both involved the killing of their immediate family.
But there are also two other deaths of prominent gas industry executives this year which have aroused suspicion.
On February 25, the day after the Ukraine war started, the body of Alexander Tyulakov, 61, a senior Gazprom financial and security official at deputy general director level, was discovered by his lover.
Pictured: Russian gas tycoon Sergey Protosenya, his wife Natalya, 53. The pair were found dead in Spain on Tuesday, along with their 18-year-old daughter
According to reports, Protosenya’s family lived in France but were holidaying a their Spanish when the killings took place. Pictured: Officers are seen outside the holiday home
Protosenya and his wife Natalia, 53, had two children together, the 18-year-old victim and a teenage son who was in France at the time of the alleged killing spree
The family’s son called Catalan police on Tuesday when he was unable to contact his family members for. Officers checked on the villa and found Protosenya dead in the courtyard of the house after apparently committing suicide. Pictured: A forensic investigator at the house
His neck was in a noose in his £500,000 home.
Yet reports say he had been badly beaten shortly before he ‘took his own life’, leading to speculation he was under intense pressure.
In the same elite Leninsky gated housing development in Leningrad region three weeks earlier, Leonid Shulman, 60, head of transport at Gazprom Invest, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in a pool of blood on his bathroom floor.
A note was found, the contents of which have not been disclosed, and the Russian Investigative Committee reportedly refused to discuss the deaths.
A knife was found on the bathtub, seemingly out of reach.
On the latest death in Spain, a source close to Sergei Protasenya says that he had a ‘perfect family’, says a Moscow report.
The source does not believe that he killed his family, said a Telegram channel Toad and Viper, covering corruption.
Alongside the body of multimillionaire Vladislav Avayev, 51, was his ‘pregnant’ wife Yelena (pictured), 47, and younger daughter Maria, 13
The bodies – all with gunshot wounds – were found by the couple’s distraught adult daughter Anastasia (pictured), when she opened the apartment after failing to reach her family
Pictured: Still grabs from a video purportedly showing the crime scene inside Avayev’s apartment in Moscow
He died amid a legal battle over his shares in a Cyprus company, it was revealed.
This comes amid a shake-up in ownership in Russian business – where hidden and surrogate owners are common – triggered by Western sanctions which have frozen many fortunes.
Engineer and economist Protosenya had been chief accountant of Novatek company, the largest independent producer of natural gas in Russia, between 2002 and 2014, and later vice president.
Novatek is co-owned by close Putin friend Gennady Timchenko and the gas giant had been recently excluded from the Kremlin leader’s edict to trade energy only in rubles.
The company is also closely linked to Pyotr Kolbin, a Putin childhood friend, allegedly a ‘shadow holder of Putin’s wealth’.
Avayev’s former employer Gazprombank is also seen as close to Putin circle – allegedly used by the president and his relatives and cronies.
Pictured: A general view of Avayev’s apartment building in Moscow
Gazprombank was chosen by Putin as authorised to receive Western payments for gas in rubles.
Alayev – who mysteriously owned a KGB-FSB gun found after the shooting – evidently had a joint venture business on leaving Gazprombank with a daughter of a high level executive of Rostec, another Putin favourite.
Gazprombank is one of the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas, and in March, Putin demanded that foreign countries must open accounts with the bank in order to pay for Russian gas – in retaliation against western sanctions.
Gazprombank would then convert euros or dollars into roubles.
Putin had initially said foreign countries must pay for Russian energy in Roubles in a bid to save the country’s failing economy, a stance that he later softened on.
Novatek – Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer – has also been subject to western sanctions since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.
‘So, under strange and similar circumstances, the families of managers of two key private companies managing the money of Putin’s entourage died,’ stated Mozhem Obyasnit’.
The pro-Kremlin media has been briefed that Alayev had ‘tortured his wife for several hours before killing her – beating and shooting her in the legs and arms’ – believing she was pregnant by another man.
He suspected her of infidelity with his driver who had ‘fled to Moldova’, and tried to make her confess by shooting her in her limbs before killing her, it is claimed.
‘The last straw was the news of her pregnancy,’ said a report by Mash.
But other sources have denied she was pregnant and a rage of jealousy does not explain why he killed their daughter.
While there were differences between the couple, these were being resolved in court, it is said.
A total of 13 weapons were found in the luxury flat, which had been locked from the inside, according to Anastasia.
A neighbour called Kristina said: ‘I heard three shots and shouting. A woman was screaming. Then two more shots were fired. No-one else was screaming.
‘I looked out the window – I thought it was fireworks… It turned out they weren’t, my mother told me it was definitely gunshots.’
A female neighbour said: ‘Perhaps this was because of the sanctions – everyone is depressed, some are willing to go to extreme measures.’
Tyulakov and Shulman both died in the same luxury Leninsky gated housing development in Leningrad
She said sanctions and the economic downturn may have hit his business.
‘They possibly put him in debt and he decided to shoot himself,’ she said.
Another female neighbour said: ‘He was a smart man, almost the head of Gazprombank. I had seen him – he did not look like a maniac. He was a nerd.
‘He had no reason to do that. He was rich, smart. There’s no way a man like that could kill. Maybe Avayev and his family were killed.
‘So what does that mean? A man with a gun broke into our house, and no one stopped him? How are we supposed to sleep now?’
Police in Spain say the prime hypothesis is that Protosenya killed his wife and daughter with an axe before taking his own life at a luxury villa in Catalan resort town of Lloret de Mar.
But the case remains ‘open’ with some elements that did not suggest a domestic violence case.
Details of the other two cases are sketchy with Gazprom’s security service playing a leading role in investigating ‘suicides’ in an upmarket residential complex for company high fliers.
The Mossos Catalan police force told The Daily Telegraph that investigators are working with the hypothesis that Protosenya killed his wife and daughter with an axe and a knife inside the holiday home as they were asleep in their beds.
He then hanged himself from railings outside the villa, the newspaper reported.
However, according to local publication El Punt Avui, the evidence does not conclusively point to deaths being a domestic violence incident.
Investigators are working with the hypothesis that Protosenya killed his wife and daughter (pictured) with an axe and a knife
The Spanish news website reported that investigators found no suicide note at the property. And while initial reports suggested Protosenya used an axe and knife to kill the two women, no blood was found on his body.
It added that investigators discovered blood-stained socks on the floor of the mother’s room, suggesting that the killer had put them on as gloves – possibly to avoid leaving fingerprints at the scene, or on the weapons.
Spanish police are now waiting for the results of an autopsy, and were checking the villa’s CCTV cameras to determine if anyone from outside the family entered the property around the time of the murders.
According to reports, Protosenya’s family lived in France but were holidaying in Spain when the killings took place.
The businessman and his wife Natalia, 53, had two children together, the 18-year-old victim and a teenage son who was in France at the time of the alleged killing spree.
The teen son called the Catalan police on Tuesday when he was unable to contact any of his family members. Officers checked on the villa and found Protosenya dead in the courtyard after apparently committing suicide.
The police then found the dead bodies of his wife and teen daughter in the house.
Protosenya and his family flaunted their luxurious lifestyle on social media. They enjoyed golf and travelling all over the world, often sharing images of their apparently idyllic life with netizens.
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