Top Russian rocket scientist who had previously assisted foreign colleagues at NASA dies from poisoning after two-week fight for life
- A Moscow newspaper reported the cause of poisoning was inedible mushrooms
A top Russian rocket scientist who had previously assisted foreign colleagues at NASA has died from poisoning after a two-week illness, it was reported today.
Professor Vitaly Melnikov, 77, who had headed the Department of Rocket and Space Systems at RSC Energia, Moscow’s leading spacecraft manufacturer, had been battling a sudden and grave illness before his death.
The source of his poisoning was inedible mushrooms, Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow newspaper reported.
Doctors were unable to save Melnikov after battling the ‘severe poisoning’ for more than two weeks. The circumstances in which he allegedly became poisoned were not revealed.
This is just the latest death of a high-profile Russian due to reported poisonings.
Professor Vitaly Melnikov (pictured) had been battling a sudden and grave illness before his death
Professor Vitaly Melnikov (pictured), 77, headed the Department of Rocket and Space Systems at RSC Energia, Moscow’s leading spacecraft manufacturer
Russia has witnessed a spate of mysterious or suspicious deaths in the past two years since Vladimir Putin started preparing for his war in Ukraine.
Melnikov had worked as chief researcher at TsNIIMASH, a division of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
He was the author of 291 scientific articles, and was regarded among the most imminent space scientists.
He cooperated with foreign colleagues on a number of ventures, including at NASA. Russia’s space operations have maintained cooperation with other countries despite the war in Ukraine. Most recently a Russian astronaut set off with an American and two others in a Space X and NASA launch last week.
Latterly, Melnikov was a professor at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia.
The recent poisoning comes days after the mysterious death of a top military general, once close to Putin, who was keeper of the secrets about the construction of the Russian leader’s Black Sea Palace.
General Gennady Lopyrev, 69, suddenly became ill – gasping for breath – and was told by doctors he had previously undiagnosed leukaemia.
Suspicions arose that he was poisoned after it emerged that the general was eligible for parole.
Lopyrev was jailed for ten years in 2017 by a military court accused of bribe-taking and illegal possession of ammunition. He maintained his innocence of the charges.
Melnikov (pictured) had worked as chief researcher at TsNIIMASH, a division of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
Last month it emerged that a Russian opposition politician who spoke out against the war in Ukraine was poisoned with a highly toxic substance.
Elvira Vikhareva, 32, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, shared tests with Russia’s Sota news channel that showed she had traces of potassium dichromate in her blood.
Miss Vikhareva said she began feeling unwell in November last year, with symptoms including hair loss, muscle spasms and severe stomach pains that lasted until February 2023.
It also follows a series of poisonings targeting Moscow’s critics in recent years – the most prominent being Russia’s de facto opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who almost died after FSB agents smeared his underwear with novichock in August 2020.