Russian oil magnate and Cold War-era spy dies in mysterious circumstances after he was ‘found unconscious’ in his elite gated village
A Russian oil magnate who was a former spy and close to Vladimir Putin’s foreign intelligence chief has died in mysterious circumstances near Moscow, say reports. Well-connected Viatcheslav Rovneiko, 59, was ‘found unconscious’ late at night at his home in an elite gated village. Doctors could not save him, according to a report by Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper. The circumstances of his reported death were unclear although an investigation is underway. The report said ‘no signs of a violent death were found on his body.’ Rovneiko’s reported death means he would join a long list of high-profile Kremlin figures to die under mysterious circumstances in recent years.
He is believed to have been a Cold War era KGB spy working in Belgium with Sergei Naryshkin (pictured left), now head of the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency. He is also reported to have been close to billionaire Gennady Timchenko, seen as one of Putin’s most loyal oligarchs. Rovneiko’s former business partner was Leonid Dyachenko, whose then wife Tatiana was the powerful daughter of President Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president. The pair founded Urals Energy, one of several major oil players he was involved with. The company was floated in London in 2005. He also had business interests linked to Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Cyprus, according to reports, and he was reported in 2006 to have held a Belgian passport. Rovneiko was a graduate of Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations [MGIMO], a training school for spies and diplomats.
Russian business databases showed the ex-spy as a man with no face, and he was known as highly secretive. He was married to fellow MGIMO student Irina, 63, and their son Nikolay, 40, worked as an investment banker in London, and studied at Kingston University. Dozens of Russian businessmen have been found dead since the start of 2022 in unexplained circumstances. A top Russian defense official was found dead after plunging 160ft from a tower block window last week. Marina Yankina (pictured), 58, was a key figure in the funding of Vladimir Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine as head of the financial support department of the Ministry of Defence for the Western Military District, which is closely involved in the dictator’s invasion. Before joining the Western Military region, Ms Yankina worked in the Federal Tax Service, and also served as deputy chairman of the Property Relations Committee of St Petersburg.
Reports say it is a suspected [self-inflicted death], but this is often stated in such cases in Russia before any investigation is carried out or the facts are known. A week earlier, Major General Vladimir Makarov — a Russian general recently fired by Putin — was found dead in a possible [self-inflicted death]. On December 26, Pavel Antonov (pictured)— the richest deputy of the Russian Duma (Russia’s parliament) and a Putin critic — died in India falling out of a hotel window.
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