News & Politics

Evidence Emerges of Coverup in Murder of Putin Crony in U.S.

Evidence Emerges of Coverup in Murder of Putin Crony in U.S.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Why is the U.S. government covering up the murder of a formerly close Putin crony in Washington, D.C., in November of 2015?

Mikhail Lesin was a Russian media czar who, at one time, was in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle of advisers. He created the Russian media company Russia Today (RT) and gathered enormous power while head of the media ministry.

He moved to the U.S., purchasing several properties in California and, along with his grown children, lived a life of luxury.

But on November 5, 2015, Lesin was found dead in his Washington, D.C., hotel room. And that’s where the coverup began.

Many of the details are still not clear. But a year-long investigation by the FBI and D.C. police finally yielded an answer. Lesin died as a result of several falls in his room brought about by excess drinking.

And if you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge over the Chicago River I’d like to sell you.

According to BuzzFeed, 18 former and current FBI and intelligence officials say that Lesin was brutally beaten and murdered — almost certainly by Russian intelligence. They discovered that the Justice Department paid for Lesin’s hotel room and that he had an interview scheduled the next day with DoJ.

Mikhail Lesin’s battered body was discovered in his Dupont Circle hotel room on the morning of November 5, 2015 with blunt-force injuries to the head, neck, and torso. After an almost year-long “comprehensive investigation,” a federal prosecutor announced last October that Lesin died alone in his room due to a series of drunken falls “after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.” His death was ruled an “accident,” and prosecutors closed the case.

But the two FBI agents — as well as a third agent and a serving US intelligence officer — said Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death. None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were.

“Lesin was beaten to death,” one of the FBI agents said. “I would implore you to say as much. There seems to be an effort here to cover up that fact for reasons I can’t get into.”

He continued: “What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”

In another previously unreported revelation, the two FBI agents said it was the Department of Justice that paid for the hotel room where Lesin died. DOJ officials had invited the Russian to Washington to interview him about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that Lesin founded, they said.

But Lesin never made it to the interview. He died the night before it was scheduled to take place.

Last month, a two-year investigation by BuzzFeed News revealed explosive evidence pointing to Russia in 14 suspicious deaths on British soil that the UK government had largely ignored. Four high-ranking US intelligence officials confirmed that those deaths had been linked to Russian security services or mafia gangs, two groups that sometimes work in tandem, by “intelligence gathered in the field and analysed” by US spies and handed to Britain’s security services. But the UK police publicly declared that none of the 14 incidents involved foul play. As a result, the public has been kept in the dark about what national security officials have long suspected: Russian assassins may have murdered in the UK with impunity.

At the time of the murder, it was believed the FBI was investigating Lesin’s property deals, thinking they may have been a source of money laundering for high-level Russian government officials.

So why the coverup, both here and in Great Britain? Are relations with Putin really that important that both governments would allow foreign intelligence agents to commit murder with impunity on their soil?

There’s a lot more to this story. BuzzFeed has three other parts that shed light on the murder and its aftermath.

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