To be considered his rival Russian President Putin, or “knowing a lot” right now means you’re essentially dead, according to a report by the American edition of The SUN newspaper. So far dozens of members of the Russian elite – 39 people – have died by “suicide”, COVID, or accident, since the war broke out in Ukraine.

Just this month, two former top executives have died. Sergei Grishin, an oligarch who sold Prince Harry and Meghan their Montecito, California mansion for $14.7 million, died of sepsis on March 6. Coincidence or not, this happened after criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Virologist Andrei Botykov – who helped develop the Sputnik V vaccine against Covid – died in a less discreet way on March 1: He was strangled with a belt.

Sergey Grishin

Energy executives, politicians and dissidents are among those who have paid the price for their criticism of the Russian president. Putin and the Kremlin leadership, according to expert John O’Neill, have left “their stamp” on at least some of the deaths that range from the mysterious to the gruesome to the seemingly random.

“Putin doesn’t want to murder people openly,” O’Neill, co-author of “The Dancer and the Devil: Stalin, Pavlova and the Road to the Great Pandemic,” told the New York Post.

“If he does, he’s exposed to the whole world. He wants people to appear to kill themselves or to appear to die of unusual diseases. Putin wants to kill people with impunity. At the same time, everyone in Russia knows that these people are being murdered. It sends a message to those associated with Putin: You better not step out of line”. Suspicious deaths since March 2022 also include Colonel Vadim Boyko, head of Ukraine’s war mobilization, who is said to have committed suicide. The problem is that (it) was shot five times.

Meanwhile, Marina Yankina, a Russian defense official, skydived 16 stories from her apartment. Although the St. Petersburg news agency Mash reported that she had committed suicide and notified her husband before she died, O’Neill believes that the deaths of Yankina and other officials may be linked to setbacks Russia is experiencing in Ukraine.

  Andrei Botykov

Andrei Botykov

“These people know too much about what really happened. That’s why they die” said the analyst. Knowing too much can obviously be fatal if you’re Putin’s partner.

“Russia under Putin has become a state where political opponents can be killed, and (if necessary) will be killed,” Professor Anthony Glass, an intelligence expert from the University of Buckingham, told Sun Online.

For those influential in Russia’s oil and gas industries, the death of Sergei Protosenia caused collective fear. A former CEO of Novatek – a company with ties to the Kremlin – he and his family enjoyed life in Spain. But on April 19, 2022, his wife and two daughters were found brutally murdered in their villa. The government-controlled energy company spoke of “murder and suicide”. However, Fedor Protosenia, son of Sergei, harbors serious doubts. “He loved my mother and especially Maria, my sister,” Fedor said characteristically about his father. “He could never do anything to harm them. I don’t know what happened that night, but I do know that Mr my father did them no harm.”

Alexei Maslov

Alexei Maslov

Oil magnate Alexander Shubotin died on May 8, 2022 – his death reportedly caused by a “drug-induced heart attack” while attending a “shamanic ritual.” O’Neill believes these victims, and many others, have made the mistake of criticizing Putin for siding with China at the expense of Europe and the long-term “health” of the Russian energy sector. “People who express dissent are killed.”

John Hardy, deputy director of the Russia Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, agrees. “It’s a bad time to argue with Putin,” Hardy told The Post. “There may have been a time when this would have been tolerated… But tolerance of opposition to the war and to the regime in general has been greatly reduced” explained. O’Neill, for his part, insisted there was a method behind the killings

“Some people he can make disappear, but he wants to kill them because he’s sending a message,” explained. “Putin could have disappeared (Protosenia) and it wouldn’t have been a big deal… But he wanted it to be a public issue.”. Likewise, also in April 2022, Vladislav Avayev and Vasily Melnikov, one a gas oligarch and the other a medical chief, were found dead in what appeared to be a “murder-suicide” pattern. Avayev appeared to have shot his wife and daughter before turning the gun on himself. Melnikov allegedly killed his family and then killed himself with a knife.

“If you are a dissenter, you may be willing to risk your life,” commented O’Neill. “But you would never be willing to risk your children. They are killing you and your familythis will prevent potential non-cooperation.”

Marina Yankina

Marina Yankina

However, in addition to bloody murders and suicides of prominent opponents of Putin – some are also attributed to improbable accidents. Gas executive Andrei Krukovsky fell off a cliff in Sochi. Real estate oligarch Dmitry Zelenov fell down a ladder and hit his head, and Vyacheslav Taran, who made billions in cryptocurrencies, was killed in a helicopter crash while flying from Switzerland to Monaco. Then there is General Alexei Maslov, who was ousted by Putin, fell ill and died.

The author remembers the saying of the Russian executioner Sergei Spiegelglas: “anyone can kill anyone. But it takes a true artist for a ‘natural death'”. Putin continues this tradition with assassins who are ex-KGB enforcers.”