‘Blunt injuries’ killed Russian media tycoon Lesin in Washington, DC – forensic data

Mikhail Lesin © Iliya Pitalev
Four months after the death of former Russian press minister and prominent media figure Mikhail Lesin in a DC hotel, Washington’s chief medical examiner has revealed forensic data indicating that Lesin died of injuries to the head.

While initial reports following Lesin’s death in DC’s Dupont Hotel on November 5, 2015 indicated that a heart attack had been to blame, no conclusive official forensic data has been released until now.

A joint statement by the District of Colombia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and Metropolitan Police Department said that the former minister’s death had been a violent one, as cited by RIA Novosti on Thursday.

“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has released the cause and manner of death for Mikhail Lesin...Cause of Death: blunt force injuries of the head,” the statement said.

It added that “blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities” contributed to the 57-year-old’s death.

Nevertheless, the manner of death was still classified as “undetermined” in the official release.

Lesin’s death is being actively investigated, OCME spokeswoman LaShon Beamon has said.

Meanwhile, Moscow said it is now expecting Washington to explain why Russia has not received any details from the probe into Lesin’s death, despite repeated requests.

“We are awaiting the related clarifications from Washington and the official data on the progress of the investigation,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote in a Facebook post. She added that if the media reports citing the forensic statement are confirmed, Russia will send an official request to the US “for international legal assistance.”

“The Russian Embassy to the United States has repeatedly sent through diplomatic channels inquiries about the progress of investigation into the death of Russia's citizen. The US side has not provided to us any substantive information,” Zakharova said.

Lesin was found dead in his hotel suite. It had been reported earlier that the police arriving at the scene had found no signs pointing to an unnatural cause of death.

Lesin was considered one of the most influential figures in the Russian media landscape and is best known for serving as the press minister from 1999-2004 under President Vladimir Putin. He became a presidential media adviser in 2004 and oversaw questions relating to the development of media and information technologies until he left the post in 2009. Lesin is credited with the idea of establishing RT as an English-language television network to convey Russian positions to the international audience.

“It’s been a long time since I was scared by the word propaganda. We need to promote Russia internationally. Otherwise, we’d just look like roaring bears on the prowl,” he said back in 2007. In 2013, Lesin was appointed head of Gazprom-Media, Russia’s largest media holding, remaining its chief until January of 2015.

Conspiracies arise

Several Western media reports speculating on the cause of Lesin’s death, including one by the DailyMail tabloid, immediately surfaced. Some of the wildest claims have compared Lesin’s death to that of the former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, who the West believes was murdered by radioactive polonium poisoning on direct orders from the Kremlin. Lesin is also claimed to have been under constant FBI scrutiny over his assets in Los Angeles.

William Jones, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Executive Intelligence Review, told RT that the Western media would inevitably exploit the former Russian minister’s death to try and implicate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, which he believes is a “false lead.”

Jones reasoned that Lesin was “a high-flier… had a lot of business interests,he was dealing with the oligarchs,” and various parties might have been “going after him.”

However, “the media, of course, is going out after the Russian government, going after Vladimir Putin. This is their favorite target, this is the obvious thing that they would do and this is probably a false lead in terms of what actually happened to Mr. Lesin,” Jones said.