Former Russian Top Media Executive, Putin Aide Died From Blows to Head, U.S. Autopsy Finds

Moscow Russia Aerial View - H 2013
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Moscow Russia Aerial View - H 2013

Mikhail Lesin, who was found dead at a Washington hotel last year, was head of Gazprom Media and press minister.

Mikhail Lesin, Russia's former press minister and an aide to president Vladimir Putin, found dead in a Washington D.C. hotel last year, died of blows to his head, U.S investigators announced late Thursday as the mystery surrounding the top official's death deepened.

The office of the chief medical examiner in Washington announced that Lesin's death in a room at the four-star Dupont Circle Hotel last November was due to "blunt force trauma" to his head, neck, torso, arms and legs.

The New York Times quoted an official involved in the investigation as saying that the trauma resulted from "some sort of altercation that happened before he returned to his room."

Lesin, who was close to Putin and inspired the Kremlin's English-language TV service Russia Today (RT), was said at the time to have died of a heart attack. Local police back then said there had been no signs of foul play, but opened a formal "death investigation."

Lesin, a once powerful media figure in Russia, had stepped down as head of Gazprom Media, the country's largest TV and media company, the year before his death and had been spending much of his time in the U.S.

According to some reports, Lesin, who was 57 at the time of his death, said he had left the company out of frustration over running a state-owned company. However, there were persistent rumors that he had been forced out.

Although friends of Lesin's said he had been enjoying an early retirement, he had been involved in a media business in the U.S with his son where his role had prompted calls by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) for an investigation into possible financial malpractice.

Russian authorities reacted to the new development in the Lesin investigation by demanding more information from the U.S. "We are waiting for Washington to give us the relevant information and official data about the investigation," said Maria Zakharova, Russia's foreign ministry's spokesperson. “If the information published today in the media is true, the Russian authorities will send their American counterparts a request for international legal assistance.”