A former top aide to Vladimir Putin died of 'blunt force trauma' at a DC hotel

Blunt Force Trauma To Head Killed Russia Today Founder

Mikhail Lesin's November 2015 death in a Washington, DC, hotel was already mysterious.

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The former Russian press minister and founder of the English-language television network Russia Today (RT) had been one of the chief architects of the Kremlin's public messaging. That was before Lesin quit as head of state-owned Gazprom Media, amid an internal power struggle and a US money-laundering investigation probing the media mogul's American investments.

RT attributed Lesin's death to a heart attack. But his mere presence in the US capital amid historic levels of tension between Washington and Moscow, and in light of the federal investigation into his finances, suggested that he may have been ready to cooperate with US authorities against some of his former Kremlin colleagues.

Thursday brought new developments into the circumstances surrounding Lesin's death. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the Washington, DC, medical examiner's office determined that Lesin had died of "blunt force trauma to the head." The report also said that he "suffered injuries to his neck, body, and upper and lower extremities."

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A former top aide to Vladimir Putin died of 'blunt force trauma' at a DC hotel
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a glass of champagne after a state awards ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 10, 2016. AFP PHOTO / POOL / PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AFP / POOL / PAVEL GOLOVKIN (Photo credit should read PAVEL GOLOVKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA. MARCH 1, 2016. Russia's president Vladimir Putin at the 7th congress of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation (CCI). Mikhail Metzel/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu leave Moscow's Red Square on May 9, 2015 after the Victory Day military parade. Russian President Vladimir Putin presides over a huge Victory Day parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet win over Nazi Germany, amid a Western boycott of the festivities over the Ukraine crisis. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with the leader of Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia Leonid Tibilov during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / IVAN SEKRETAREV (Photo credit should read IVAN SEKRETAREV/AFP/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - FEBRUARY 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) looks on as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban kisses the hand of a member of the Russian delegation during a signing ceremony of several agreements between the two countries on February 17, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Putin is in Budapest on a one-day visit, his first visit to an EU-member country since he attended ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasions in France in June, 2014. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / POOL / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - MARCH 16: Russia President Vladimir Putin waves during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 16, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Japan, December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

The incident adds to a number of high-profile suspicious deaths tied to powerful Russian figures. They include the former deputy prime minister, Boris Nemtsov, who was killed just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin's walls in February 2015, and Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who received a lethal polonium dose from a Russian operative in London in 2006.

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"Mr. Litvinenko's killing ... was primarily about silencing critics and scaring opponents rather than eliminating one man," New York University professor Mark Galeotti wrote in The New York Times after the January publication of a British government investigation blaming Kremlin agents for Litvinenko's death. "Moscow has realized that in the age of the Internet and 24-hour news cycles, there are safer ways of doing the same thing."

In Lesin's case, family members told Russian media that they believed he had suffered a heart attack, according to The Post. Dustin Sternbeck, the DC police department's chief spokesman, told reporters that the case remains under investigation, according to The Post.

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