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Russia demands answers over death of ex-Putin aide in Washington hotel

Published 11/03/2016

The Dupont Circle Hotel where Mikhail Lesin was found dead (AP)
The Dupont Circle Hotel where Mikhail Lesin was found dead (AP)

Russian officials have demanded more information from the US about the mysterious death of a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who was found in an upmarket Washington hotel room last year.

Post-mortem results said Mikhail Lesin, Mr Putin's former press minister who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, died of blunt force trauma to the head and other parts of his body, but did not specify how he got the injuries.

The 57-year-old was discovered in his room at the Doyle Dupont Circle Hotel in November and Russian media, citing relatives, had previously reported that Mr Lesin suffered a heart attack.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Mr Putin, said: "We haven't received any detailed information via formal channels of communication that (we use) for such cases, and in the light of these media reports we hope that we will receive the detailed information."

District of Columbia police and the medical examiner's office said in a joint statement that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and contributing causes were blunt force injuries to the neck, torso, arms and legs.

Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the case is "very much an active investigation" and officials would release updates when they are available.

Mr Lesin, one of Russia's leading media managers, helped stage Mr Putin's ascent to power in 2000 and was a key figure in the Kremlin's effort to establish tight control over the nation's media throughout the 2000s.

He built a quick career in television advertising in the early 1990s, making his company the industry's leader. In 1999, he was named Russian media minister and played a key role in Mr Putin's first election campaign, after which he oversaw the Kremlin's efforts to establish state control over Russia's top private TV channel NTV, and helped tame other media.

In 2004 he was named Mr Putin's adviser, and the following year oversaw the launch of Russia Today, currently known as RT, a state-controlled channel intended to reach global audience.

From 2013 to 2015, Mr Lesin served as the chief executive of Gazprom Media, a state-controlled holding company that includes NTV television along with the nation's top independent radio station, Ekho Moskvy, and several other media outlets.

It took about four months for his post-mortem to be completed. It was finished this week and results released initially to Mr Lesin's family and then to the media, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said.

The Interfax news agency reported that Russia's senior prosecutor Yuri Chaika has asked his US counterpart Loretta Lynch for information about the Lesin case.

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