(Reuters) – Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was presumed dead after a private jet on which he was listed as a passenger crashed north of Moscow with no survivors.
Prigozhin, 62, led a mutiny on June 23 and 24 against the top ranks of the Russian military, which President Vladimir Putin says could have plunged Russia into civil war.
Others who have opposed Putin or his interests have also died under unclear circumstances or are near death.
Here are some details about these mysterious incidents:
Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny was flown to Germany for medical treatment in August 2020 after being poisoned in Siberia with what Western experts concluded was military nerve agent Novichok. Russia has denied any involvement.
Navalny received worldwide acclaim for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021. Upon arrival, he was immediately arrested. He is now serving prison terms totaling 11.5 years for fraud and other charges he believes to be bogus. His political movement has been banned and declared ‘extremist’. Navalny recently received an additional 19 years in prison in a high-security penal colony.
A former Russian double agent who passed secrets to British intelligence Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the English cathedral city of Salisbury in March 2018.
They were taken to hospital in critical condition and British officials said they had been poisoned with Novichok, a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. Both survived.
Russia has denied any role in the poisoning, saying Britain was fomenting anti-Russian hysteria.
Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza said he believes attempts were made in 2015 and 2017 to poison him. A German laboratory later discovered elevated levels of mercury, copper, manganese and zinc in him, according to Reuters medical reports. Moscow denied involvement.
Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB agent and outspoken critic of Putin, died in 2006 aged 43 after drinking green tea containing polonium-210, a rare and powerful radioactive isotope, at London’s Millennium Hotel, British officials say .
Putin likely approved the assassination, a British investigation concluded in 2016. The Kremlin has denied involvement.
An investigation led by a senior British judge found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, committed the murder as part of an operation he said was likely led by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir of the Soviet-era KGB.
Litvinenko fled Russia for Britain six years ago, the day before he was poisoned.
The 44-year-old Russian was found dead near his luxury home on an exclusive gated estate outside London, after going jogging in November 2012.
Alexander Perepilichny sought refuge in Britain in 2009 after aiding a Swiss investigation into a Russian money laundering scheme. His sudden death raised suspicions that he may have been murdered.
British police ruled out foul play, despite suspicions that he may have been killed with a rare poison. A pre-trial hearing revealed that traces of a rare and deadly poison from the gelsemium plant had been found in his stomach.
Perepilichny had enjoyed a large bowl of sorrel soup, a popular Russian dish. Russia denied involvement.
Viktor Yushchenko, then a Ukrainian opposition leader, was poisoned during the 2004 presidential election campaign, in which he waged a pro-Western campaign against pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
He said he was poisoned at a dinner outside Kiev with Ukrainian security officials. Russia denied any involvement.
His body was found to contain a thousand times more dioxin than is normally present. His face and body were disfigured from the poisoning, and he underwent dozens of surgeries in the aftermath.
He won the presidency in a new poll after Ukraine’s Supreme Court struck down the results and declared Yanukovych the winner amid street protests dubbed the “Orange Revolution”.
Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who reported on human rights violations, was shot dead outside her Moscow flat on October 7, 2006, after returning home from the supermarket. The murder of Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, sparked outrage in the West and underlined concerns about the dangers faced by reporters working in Russia.
(Compiled by Lisa Shumaker; edited by Cynthia Osterman)