Russian-Jewish media executive dies suddenly in DC hotel

Mikhail Lesin, a Putin associate and former aide, suffered a heart attack, Russian authorities say

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Mikhail Lesin in 2002. (ITAR-TASS/Sergei Velichkin/ CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia  Commons)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Mikhail Lesin in 2002. (ITAR-TASS/Sergei Velichkin/ CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — A Russian-Jewish media executive, Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, was found dead in an upscale Washington hotel room, Russian authorities said.

The Russian Embassy in Washington on Friday confirmed the death of Lesin, whose body was discovered Thursday. Russia Today reported on its website that Lesin, 57, died of a heart attack.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Sean Hickman said that officers were called to the Dupont Circle Hotel about 11:30 a.m. Thursday and found a man dead. Russian Embassy spokesman Yury Melnik confirmed that the man was Lesin.

Russia Today, commonly known as RT, credited Lesin with “inspiring the creation” of the agency.

Putin expressed his sincerest condolences to Lesin’s family early on Saturday, according to RT.

“The president has a high appreciation for Mikhail Lesin’s massive contribution to the creation of modern Russian mass media,” the Kremlin said in a statement cited by the news channel

Lesin served as Russian press minister from 1999 to 2004 and presidential media adviser from 2004 to 2009, RT said. In 2013, he became a senior executive at Gazprom-Media, Russia’s largest state-controlled media company.

Lesin has been accused of limiting press freedom in Russia, according to an ABC report.

Republican Senator Robin Wicker of Mississippi called for a probe last year of Lesin on suspicion of money laundering and corruption, ABC said.

He allegedly amassed millions of dollars in assets in Europe and the United States while working for the government, including $28 million in real estate in Los Angeles.

“That a Russian public servant could have amassed the considerable funds required to acquire and maintain these assets in Europe and the United States raises serious questions,” Wicker wrote, according to ABC.

It added that it is unclear if the FBI ever began a probe.

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