Ex-KGB spy and oil magnate dies in latest mystery high-profile Russian death

A Russian oil magnate and former spy close to Vladimir Putin’s foreign intelligence chief has been found dead in his gated community, according to reports.

Viatcheslav Rovneiko, 59, was "found unconscious" late last night and doctors tried in vain to save him, with an investigation into his reported death now underway.

A report by Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow-based daily newspaper, stated that "no signs of a violent death were found on his body".

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Rovneiko is believed to have been a Cold War era KGB spy working in Belgium with Sergei Naryshkin, 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 had business interests linked to Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Cyprus, according to reports.

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.

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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.

It comes after Marina Yankina, 58, was discovered by a passerby at the entrance of a house in St Petersburg, believed to have fallen 160ft to her death.

Yankina, headed up a department in the Kremlin tasked with fundraising for the Ministry of Defence, particularly in relation to the war in Ukraine.

Suspicious deaths in Russia are nothing new, with 38 Russian businessmen and oligarchs close to the Kremlin dying in mysterious or suspicious circumstances between 2014 and 2017, according to the Atlantic magazine.

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It describes this phenomena as 'Sudden Russian Death Syndrome.'

Many more have died in recent months.

Bill Browder ran Russia's largest foreign investment firm for a decade, but was declared a threat to Russian national security and deported to the UK in 2005.

Speaking before November’s Magnitsky Human Rights Awards in London, the American-born British financier said that the bizarre series of “suicides” is in fact the result of a war between rival Kremlin insiders.

The most recent series of over a dozen unexplained deaths began last January 30, when 60-year-old Leonid Shulman, transport chief for Russian energy giant Gazprom, was found dead in the bathroom of his country house in the Leningrad region.


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