Con­tro­ver­sial Rus­sian me­dia mogul found dead at Wash­ing­ton ho­tel

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: Con­tro­ver­sial Rus­sian me­dia mogul Mikhail Lesin, who helped found the RT English-lan­guage tele­vi­sion net­work, has been found dead at a Wash­ing­ton ho­tel. He was 57. RT, for­merly known as Rus­sia To­day, said the former min­is­ter of me­dia af­fairs died of a heart at­tack. “Lesin died. It’s im­pos­si­ble to be­lieve this,” tweeted Mar­garita Si­monyan, editor-inchief of RT, which is state funded. ACB News, quot­ing a Rus­sian and a US of­fi­cial, re­ported late Fri­day that Lesin had been found in Wash­ing­ton’s Dupont Cir­cle Ho­tel the day be­fore.

A con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure, Lesin had been ac­cused of lim­it­ing press free­dom in Rus­sia. In a terse state­ment, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told re­porters late Fri­day that the “pres­i­dent highly val­ues the enor­mous con­tri­bu­tion Mikhail Lesin made help­ing es­tab­lish Rus­sian me­dia.” Wash­ing­ton po­lice would not con­firm his death, say­ing only that they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the death of some­one on the block where the ho­tel is lo­cated in a fash­ion­able area of Wash­ing­ton.

US of­fi­cials no­ti­fied the Rus­sian em­bassy of Lesin’s death and author­i­ties from both coun­tries are try­ing to de­ter­mine the cir­cum­stances in which he died. Lesin was Rus­sia’s min­is­ter of press, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio be­tween 1999 and 2004 and later served as a Krem­lin aide. In 2013, he be­came head of Gazprom-Me­dia Hold­ing, the me­dia arm of state en­ergy gi­ant Gazprom, and over­saw the work of Rus­sia’s top lib­eral ra­dio sta­tion Echo of Moscow, among other tasks. Lesin re­signed a year later, cit­ing fam­ily rea­sons. In a re­cent in­ter­view, the former editor of state news agency RIA Novosti, Svet­lana Mironyuk, claimed Lesin was one of two peo­ple be­hind her sack­ing in 2013.

‘A state man’

Mironyuk told the Rus­sian edi­tion of Forbes she was let go af­ter she be­came a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Chicago Booth School of Busi­ness, with Krem­lin of­fi­cials telling her a me­dia ex­ec­u­tive of her stature should not study in the United States. Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Robin Wicker of Mis­sis­sippi called for a probe into Lesin last year 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 (26 mil­lion eu­ros) 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 said it was un­clear whether the FBI had ac­tu­ally opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In 2014, Lesin told Forbes he thought it was okay that most tele­vi­sion chan­nels in Rus­sia were state-con­trolled. “I am a state man,” he said. — AFP

MOSCOW: In this file photo, former Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Leonid Reiman (left) and Min­is­ter of Press, Tele­vi­sion and Ra­dio Broadcasting, Mikhail Lesin con­fer over doc­u­ments dur­ing a meet­ing, headed by Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, at the Krem­lin. Con­tro­ver­sial Rus­sian me­dia mogul Mikhail Lesin, who helped found the RT English-lan­guage tele­vi­sion net­work, has been found dead at a Wash­ing­ton ho­tel. — AFP

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