Russian Sausage Tycoon Dies By Suicide In Hotel Fall—Just The Latest Russian Elite (Including Putin Critics) To Die Mysteriously


Russian sausage magnate Pavel Antov, a lawmaker who criticized the war on Ukraine this summer, mysteriously died at a hotel in India on Saturday while traveling for his birthday—becoming the latest in a string of puzzling high-profile critics of Vladimir Putin who have died under unexplained circumstances since the country launched a war with Ukraine earlier this year.

Key Facts

Antov died after falling from the third floor of his luxury hotel in the southern district of India’s Rayagada, according to Indian police official Vivekanand Sharma, who said police believe Antov died by suicide, though they are still investigating the matter.

The abrupt death came just two days after Antov’s 65th birthday—the same day his friend Vladimir Budanov was also found dead at the hotel following a sudden heart attack on the trip, according to a doctor who noted Budanov had a pre-existing heart condition and “had alcohol on an empty stomach” the night before he died.

A wealthy lawmaker from Russia’s Vladimir region, Antov made headlines this summer as he condemned Russia’s airstrikes on Ukraine—lamenting “it’s extremely hard to call this anything other than terror”—only to later edit the post, calling it a misunderstanding, and stress that he had always supported the Russian president.

Antov is only the latest Russian tycoon mysteriously facing an untimely death: On December 4, real estate baron and one-time billionaire Dmitry Zelenov, 50, died while visiting friends on the coast of France after suddenly becoming ill during dinner and then falling down a flight of stairs, according to French newspaper Var Matin; police are investigating the death.

Last month, Viktor Cherkesov, a longtime ally and deputy of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was fired in 2007 after publicly discussing infighting within Putin’s inner circle, died following “a severe illness,” and Russian shipyard executive Alexander Buzakov died on Saturday, with officials providing no cause of death.

Others have died after mysterious accidents: In September, Ravil Maganov, the chairman of oil company Lukoil who openly opposed the invasion of Ukraine, died after falling from a sixth-floor hospital window, and Anatoly Gerashchenko of the Moscow Aviation Institute passed away in September after reportedly falling “from a great height” inside the institute’s offices in September.

Crucial Quote

“We are aware of the deaths of two Russian citizens,” a Russian consulate official in India told Russian state media RIA Novosti on Monday, adding that Indian police have yet to find anything suspicious about the two deaths.


Antov, who founded the Vladimir Standard meat processing plant, topped Forbes Russia’s list of the 100 richest civil servants in Russia in 2018. He netted about $156.3 million in annual income—more than double the next highest-earner.

Key Background

According to CNN, at least 12 Russian elites have mysteriously died by suicide or under unexplained circumstances amid escalating geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine this year, but nothing has yet suggested the deaths are linked. Among the earliest of the unexplained fatalities, Gazprom director Leonid Shulman reportedly died by suicide in late January, and less than a month later, Alexander Tyulakov, another Gazprom executive, was found dead in the garage of his St Petersburg home. Experts have started raising their eyebrows. “We can almost certainly rule out the official explanation of the deaths as suicides or poor health,” University of South Carolina international business professor Stanislav Markus recently told Vox of the deaths, suggesting they may not necessarily be linked to the Kremlin but could instead be linked to heightened pressure on dubious businesses amid economic uncertainty exacerbated by the war on Ukraine.

Further Reading

Russian sausage magnate dies after hotel fall in India (CNN)

Another Russian Oligarch, Dmitry Zelenov, Dies Under Mysterious Circumstances (Daily Beast)

Odisha police intensify probe into mysterious death of Russian lawmaker Pavel Antov (The Hindu)