Mystery continues to shroud the alleged suicides of six prominent Russian oligarchs and businessmen since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Four billionaires and two executives of oil and gas giant Gazprom have died since Russian troops began preparing to invade their neighbor in late January.
Among them is Mikhail Watford, a Ukrainian-born gas and real estate magnate, who has told friends he has feared Putin’s blacklist “for years”.
The 66-year-old was found hanged in his £18million Surrey mansion last month in what authorities said was an ‘unexplained’ death with no evidence of foul play.
Mr Watford told friends and neighbors he had been ‘on Putin’s blacklist’ for two years as fears for his life grew in the months before his death.
Ukrainian tycoon Mikhail Watford was found dead in his £18million home in Surrey last month
Wealthy Gazprom bureaucrat Leo Shulman (left) was found hanged in his home. Right: Deceased Gazprom deputy director Alexander Tyulakov lived in the same building complex
A neighbor also said ‘Misha’ was friends with fellow Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who was found hanged at his home in Ascot, Berkshire, in 2013.
Mr Watford was convinced that Berezovsky had been killed by an intelligence agency, she said.
The neighbor added: ‘I find it hard to believe Misha would have killed himself. It doesn’t stick.
Surrey Police will hold a coroner’s hearing on July 29, CNN reported.
The suspicious spate of murders began on January 30 when Gazprom bureaucrat Leo Shulman was found hanged at his home near St Petersburg.
Mr Shulman was a transport manager at Gazprom Invest, the oil giant’s financial arm.
Gazprombank Vice President Vladislav Avayev (left) was found dead with his wife and daughter in their apartment in Moscow. Right: Medical supplies tycoon Vasily Melnikov was killed in the alleged murder-suicide of his wife and children
Tyulakov and Shulman died in the same luxury housing estate outside St. Petersburg
Three days before, Joe Biden had told Volodymyr Zelensky to “prepare for impact”.
Less than a month after Shulman’s death, Gazprom deputy director Alexander Tyulakov was found hanged in the same St. Petersburg building complex.
Three days later Mikhail Watford was found dead – and three weeks later medical supplies tycoon Vasily Melnikov was killed in the alleged murder-suicide of his wife and children.
The billionaire owner of MedCom, 43, allegedly murdered his wife, 41, and two children aged ten and four before killing himself.
Local investigators said there were “no signs of unauthorized entry into the apartment”.
“We are considering several versions of what happened,” police in the western city of Nizhny Novgorod added.
On April 18, Gazprombank Vice President Vladislav Avayev was found dead with his wife and daughter in their apartment in Moscow.
Russian reports said the gas executive shot and killed his family before turning the gun on himself. He allegedly tortured his wife for hours.
But Avayev’s former colleague Igor Volobuev said the suicide was “hard to believe” and claimed it was staged.
Avayev’s ex-colleague Igor Volobuev (pictured in 2010) denied his friend had left Gazprom
Mr Volobuev denied that Avayev – who may have had FSB links and was found with an FSB weapon after his death – left his post as senior deputy chairman of Gazprombank, as was widely reported .
Mr Avayev was still in the bank and would have had access to the accounts of his most elite clients, including Putin’s inner circle and possibly the president himself, his colleague added.
Mr Volobuev told CNN: ‘Did he kill himself?’ I do not think so. I think he knew something and was some kind of risk.
The following day, billionaire gas executive Sergey Protosenya was found dead in his Spanish holiday home, with his wife and daughter “chopped to death with an axe”.
Sergey Protosenya poses with his wife Natalya, whom he allegedly killed with an ax
Spanish authorities have suggested Mr Protosenya, 55, executed the couple before killing himself in an unusual fit of rage as the family enjoyed the Easter holiday on the Costa Brava last week.
But Protosenya’s son Fedor, 22, said his father “could never hurt” his family in this way.
He told MailOnline: ‘He loved my mum and especially Maria my sister. She was his princess.
“He could never do anything to hurt them. I don’t know what happened that night, but I know my father didn’t hurt them.
Sergey and Natalya Protosenya’s Spanish holiday home in Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava
Fedor, a 22-year-old student, was not at the villa because he spent Easter in their Bordeaux house
Mr Protosenya did not leave a suicide note and no fingerprints were found on the weapons – an ax and a knife – used to kill. There were no bloodstains on his body.
Fedor, a 22-year-old student, said police told him not to discuss the case.
Protosenya’s friend Anatoly Timoshenko also told MailOnline: ‘Sergey didn’t. Sergey did not kill his family. It’s impossible. I don’t want to discuss what happened at home that night, but I know Sergey is not a killer.
Another friend, Roman Yuravich, added: “Sergei did not kill his family. I have known him for ten years. He was a happy man.
“He loved his family. He did not kill his wife and child. I am on.’
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The “suicides” of the Kremlin: four gas chiefs and their suspicious deaths
Vladislav Avaev: The 51-year-old Gazprombank vice president was found dead in his Moscow penthouse apartment on April 18 alongside his wife Yelena and daughter Maria.
They were found by Avayev’s eldest daughter, Anastasia, with a gun in the father’s hand, in the locked apartment.
According to initial reports in Russia, Yelena was pregnant by their driver and Vladislav killed her in a fit of rage.
Others doubted this and wondered why an FSB gun was found inside the apartment.
Sergei Protosenia: The £350m oligarch has been found dead in Spain along with his wife Natalia and daughter Maria.
He was found hanged outside their Costa Brava villa while the other two were massacred inside.
But investigators found no blood on Sergey, no suicide note and no fingerprints on the gun.
Sergey’s son Fedor said his father would never harm his family.
Alexander Tyulakov: On February 25, the day after the start of the war in Ukraine, the body of the senior Gazprom official was discovered by her lover.
Her neck was in a noose in her £500,000 home in a luxury housing estate in Leningrad.
Reports say he was badly beaten shortly before “taking his own life”.
Leonid Shulman: In the same housing estate closed three weeks earlier, the transport chief of Gazprom Invest was found dead with multiple stab wounds on his bathroom floor.
Investigators said a note was found but they did not release its contents.
A knife was found on the tub, apparently out of reach.