Mystery death of sixth Russian oligarch as oil billionaire takes ‘toad poison’

At least five Russian oligarchs have died in mysterious circumstances the ten weeks since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

And now another one has been added to the grim list.

Billionaire Alexander Subbotin, a former executive for Russian energy giant Lukoil, has been found dead in the Moscow suburb of Mytishchi.

Subbotin was reportedly undergoing an “alternative medicine” treatment for a hangover when he died. Offbeat remedies are popular among the Russian ruling class, with Putin himself indulging in a weird "deer antler" remedy.

According to the Telegram channel Mash , Subbotin had visited a shaman who specialised in performing a “treatment” involving a poisonous toad.

“They made an incision on the skin, dripped toad poison there, and after vomiting the patient allegedly got better,” the outlet reported. “They also called spirits, sacrificed animals and bathed in cock’s blood”.

Subbotin had reportedly felt unwell after the treatment but instead of calling for medical help the shaman had put his patient to bed to sleep it off.

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“He felt unwell …his heart ached,” Ukraine Today reported. “The owner decided not to call an ambulance, gave Corvalol and put the businessman to sleep in the basement. There, the man died”.

Russia ’s billionaire class has been empowered by the rise of Putin. The first wave of Russian oligarchs made their fortunes in the 1990s as the old Soviet Union was dismantled and state assets were offloaded to private bidders, often in dodgy deals.

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Many of today’s oligarchs are current or former Putin officials, and nearly all of them owe their fortunes to the Russian leader. But the billionaires have well over $80 billion in wealth as sanctions over the Ukraine conflict have kicked in and many of them have begun to express dissatisfaction with Putin’s leadership.

Subbotin’s mysterious death brings the number of sudden deaths since the war began among Russia’s billionaires to six. A seventh tycoon died just weeks before hostilities began

The body of Sergey Protosenya, former executive for Russian energy conglomerate Novatek, was found together with those of his wife and daughter last month in a rented villa in Spain.

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In the same week a former vice-president of Gazprombank Vladislav Avaev was found dead in his multi-million apartment on Universitetsky Prospekt in Moscow, together with his wife and daughter.

Vasily Melnikov died alongside his family in a luxury apartment in Nizhny Novgorod in March.

Mikhail Watford, the Russian oil and gas magnate born Mikhail Tolstosheya, was found hanged in the garage of his Surrey home in February.

A few days before that Gazprom director Alexander Tyulyakov, was found dead in a cottage near St. Petersburg. Before the war had even started Tyulyakov’s colleague Leonid Shulman was found dead in the bathroom of his cottage near Leningrad in what was reported as a suicide.

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