Mikhail Lesin: Former Putin aide died from 'blunt force injuries to the head'

The 59-year-old, who died in Washington DC last year, also suffered blunt force injuries to the neck, torso, arms and legs, according to an autopsy report

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The Independent US

A former top aide to Vladimir Putin, whose body was found in a Washington hotel room, died of blunt force injuries to the head, according to the results of an autopsy carried out by US authorities.

Mikhail Lesin, who died at the Dupont Circle Hotel in November last year, also suffered blunt force injuries to the neck, torso, arms and legs, a report by District of Columbia’s Chief Medical Officer and police said.

Following the death of Mr Lesin, 59, his family members were quoted in Russian state media claiming he had suffered a heart attack.

But Russian journalists and opposition figures have questioned why Mr Lesin, who served as media minister under Presidents Putin and Boris Yeltsin, had been staying in a $215 per night hotel.

The autopsy report, posted online, recorded the “manner of death” as “undetermined”. A police investigation could now begin working under the assumption that Mr Lesin was murdered, according to reports.

After serving as an adviser to Mr Putin, Mr Lesin headed state-controlled Gazprom-Media from 2009, helping to launch the English language channel RT. But the FT reports that his star waned and that he resigned in 2014 after a spat with a liberal newspaper editor.

Before Mr Lesin’s death, Roger Wicker, a US senator from Mississippi, asked the authorities whether the Russian had breached the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by buying “multiple” homes worth millions of dollars in Los Angeles. Mr Lesin’s death marked the end of the investigation.

According to a police incident report, Mr Lesin, who was also President Vladimir Putin's press minister from 1999 to 2004, was found unconscious on 5 November on the floor of his room in the Doyle Washington Hotel, also known as the Dupont Circle Hotel. An ambulance was called and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A US law enforcement source told Reuters that the investigation into Mr Lesin's death was being led by city police.

The investigation was focused on Mr Lesin's death, but that did not rule out a possible change to a murder probe, said the source.

The source added that when police first investigated the hotel room where Mr Lesin's body was found, they did not find any damage or evidence indicating foul play.

Additional reporting by Reuters