Russian sausage tycoon dies after falling from hotel in India

Pavel Antov. Photo: Twitter @Olexander Sherba

Pavel Antov, a Russian lawmaker and businessman who made his fortune in the sausage industry, died after falling from the third floor of his hotel room while on vacation in India – the latest Russian businessman to die under mysterious circumstances this year.

Antov was found dead outside a hotel in the Rayagada district of India’s eastern Odisha region over the weekend, police told local media, two days after one of his travel companions, Vladimir Bidenov, was found dead at the same hotel. Bidenov was found unconscious in his hotel room, surrounded by empty wine bottles, according to local media reports. He was brought to the district hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Odisha police ordered its crime branch to take over the investigation into the “unnatural death of two Russian nationals” in Rayagada, the police department tweeted Tuesday.

Police Superintendent Vivekananda Sharma said Bidenov had suffered a stroke, while Antov “was depressed after [Bidenov’s] death and he too died,” the BBC reported. Police told Indian media that Antov’s death appeared to be a suicide.

The Russian Embassy in Delhi confirmed the deaths to Russian media. “The Consulate General of Russia in Kolkata is following the case in touch with local authorities,” Russian news outlet RT India quoted the embassy as saying. “According to information available to the police, no criminal aspect is seen.”

Antov founded the Vladimir Standard meat processing plant and amassed a fortune – estimated at around $140 million in 2019 – that landed him on Forbes’s list of Russia’s richest state employees.

He also served in the legislative assembly of the Vladimir region, neighboring Moscow, where he was a member of Putin’s United Russia party and chaired the committee on agrarian policy, nature management and ecology.

In June, Antov appeared to criticize a Russian missile attack on a residential block of Kyiv that killed a man and injured his 7-year-old daughter and her mother, according to the BBC. A WhatsApp message posted to Antov’s account said of the incident: “It’s extremely difficult to call all this anything but terror.”

The message was deleted and Antov posted on social media that he supported Putin and his invasion. He chalked the earlier post up to “an extremely unfortunate misunderstanding” in which he had accidentally posted a message from a person with whom he disagreed.

His colleagues in the legislature shared messages of condolences after news of his death was announced. Vyacheslav Kartukhin, the vice speaker, wrote on Telegram that he expressed his condolences to Antov’s family and friends on behalf of the United Russia bloc, after Antov died “as a result of tragic circumstances.”

“We valued him for both his professionalism and his personal qualities – he was delicate, intelligent, he was respectful to all. An erudite man with a broad outlook, he won over everybody. For the legislative assembly, for the whole of Vladimir region, the passing of Pavel Genrikhovich Anton is a difficult and irreparable loss,” assembly speaker Vladimir Kiselyov said in a statement, according to Russian news agency Tass.

Antov celebrated his 65th birthday in India on Dec. 22, Tass reported.

His death is the latest incident this year involving Russian tycoons and high-profile oil and gas executives. It follows a series of murky and unexplained deaths since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In September, the chairman of Russian oil company Lukoil, 67-year-old Ravil Maganov, died after reportedly falling from a window of a Moscow hospital, where he was undergoing treatment after suffering a cardiac arrest. At the time, conflicting reports were published in Russian media and it was not clear whether Maganov’s death was the result of suicide, an accident or something more sinister.

In the first weeks of the invasion, Lukoil made headlines as the only Russian oil producer that called for an end to the war in Ukraine. In a statement issued just days after the Feb. 24 invasion, Lukoil “expressed concern over the ongoing tragic events in Ukraine” and called for “the immediate cessation of the armed conflict.”

In April, the body of Sergey Protosenya, a former top manager of gas giant Novatek, was found at a Spanish villa alongside those of his wife and their 18-year-old daughter. Spanish news outlet Telecinco reported that police found the mother and the daughter in separate rooms with stab wounds. Protosenya was found in the yard, where he had reportedly hanged himself.

The same month, former vice president of Gazprombank, Vladislav Avayev, was similarly found dead in his Moscow apartment alongside his wife and daughter.

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