Dead ex-Russian press minister may have been attacked outside hotel: Source

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Officials: Former Russian Minister Died of Head Injuries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Police are investigating whether former Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, who was found dead in a Washington hotel in November, was brutally assaulted before returning to the hotel, a U.S. law enforcement source said on Friday.

The source familiar with the investigation said authorities were trying to determine a possible motive for the apparent attack and do not have any suspects.

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U.S. authorities said on Thursday that Lesin died of blunt force injuries to the head. At the time of his death, Russia's RT television quoted family members as saying Lesin had died of a heart attack. He was 57.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that U.S. officials had facilitated contact between Washington police and the Russian government.

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Former Russian Minister of Press, Television and Radio Broadcasting, Mikhail Lesin
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Dead ex-Russian press minister may have been attacked outside hotel: Source
This photo taken on August 23, 2002 shows Russian Minister of Press, Television and Radio Broadcasting, Mikhail Lesin during his trip to Vladivostok with Russian president. Controversial Russian media mogul Mikhail Lesin, who helped found the RT English-language television network, has been found dead at a Washington hotel on November 6, 2015. He was 57. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Telecommunication Minister Leonid Reiman (L) and Minister of Press, Television and Radio Broadcasting, Mikhail Lesin (R), confer over documents 28 August 2000 during a meeting, headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin in Moscow to discuss the situation concerning the fire at the main TV broadcasting tower in Ostankino. Putin said 28 August 2000 that only an improved economy can help avoid such accidents. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin aide Mikhail Lesin died of 'head injuries', US coroners say https://t.co/juAXSyQjtA https://t.co/94tvvf7Z0N
The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, was found dead in the upscale Washington hotel room, Russian authorities said. He was 57. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, was found dead in the upscale Washington hotel room, Russian authorities said. He was 57. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, was found dead in the upscale Washington hotel room, Russian authorities said. He was 57. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2015, file photo, the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington. An autopsy has found that blunt force trauma to the head was the cause of death for a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin whose body was found in the hotel. District of Columbia police spokesman Officer Hugh Carew confirmed the autopsy results for Mikhail Lesin on March 10, 2016. Carew says the D.C. Medical Examiner's Office found the manner of death to be undetermined. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, was found dead in the upscale Washington hotel room, Russian authorities said. He was 57. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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"There is an avenue of direct communication between the police department and the Russian government," he told reporters.

Rumors have swirled around the death of the former Putin adviser since he was found dead in his room in the Doyle Washington Hotel, which is also known as the Dupont Circle Hotel, last Nov. 5.

Lesin served as President Vladimir Putin's press minister from 1999 to 2004. He was named head of state-controlled Gazprom-Media in 2013 but resigned the following year and moved to Los Angeles.

In 2014, U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Lesin for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices act. The Senator, a Republican from Mississippi, questioned how Lesin was able to purchase $28 million worth of properties in Los Angeles after leaving the Russian government.

The Justice Department has no open investigation of Lesin, a U.S. Law enforcement official said on Friday. The official declined to comment on the investigation into Lesin's death.

On the night he died, Lesin was scheduled to attend a gala at Washington's Ritz-Carlton hotel honoring Russian billionaire and philanthropist Pyotr Aven, Radio Free Europe reported. But Lesin never arrived at the dinner.

As of 2013, Lesin and his wife Valentina lived in a lavish Beverly Hills home about 10 miles from the home of Mikhail's son, Anton Lessine, a Hollywood producer, according to court records. The son's recent film credits include Fury, a World War II movie starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, and Rock the Kasbah, a feature starring Bill Murray.

The home is 5,500-square-feet, has five bedrooms and six bathrooms, has an assessed value of $4.3 million, according to property records.

In 2013, a housekeeper who worked for both Lesin and his son filed suit against both men and their wives for various violations of labor law.

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Lesin and his son ran their business interests partly through a company called the Dastel Corporation, with both men serving as corporate officers, according to court filings.

A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Dastel said he had no comment on the company's business or Lesin's involvement in it.

The home where Lesin and his wife lived in Beverly Hills is owned by a holding company, Java Drive Inc. The registered agent for the holding company, a Los Angeles CPA named Stephen Rousso, said in a phone interview that he had not heard of Mikhail Lesin.

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