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Russian oil executive who fled to UK took his own life after assets frozen over war in Ukraine

Exclusive: Mikhail Trushin was described as a ‘well liked, intelligent man’ and a ‘successful manager’

Holly Bancroft
Wednesday 10 January 2024 14:52 GMT
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Ukraine’s war with Russia complicated by winter, Zelensky says

A Russian oil executive who fled to the UK and claimed political asylum has died by suicide after some of his assets were frozen over the war in Ukraine, The Independent can reveal.

Mikhail Anatolyevich Trushin, 61, worked for Yukos oil company, which was worth nearly $40bn at its peak in the early 2000s, but was effectively renationalised by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Trushin was among a group of Yukos executives who fled Russia in 2004 after the chief executive, and prominent Russian dissident, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was thrown in jail.

Trushin sought sanctuary in the UK and was granted political asylum here, with the UK refusing requests from the Russian authorities to extradite him back to Russia.

Now a coroner has ruled that he took his own life on 29 July 2022 in an outbuilding in the garden of his Surrey mansion. Trushin was described as a health-conscious man, who went on regular health retreats, and had not been known to mental health services. He was a private investor, who was intelligent and well liked, the coroner said.

None of the staff, who looked after him at his home, nor his wife or romantic partner of 20 years, thought he would take his own life, which came as a “complete shock”, the court heard.

Trushin was described as a health-conscious man, who went on regular health retreats, and had not been known to mental health services (Supplied)

Surrey police have said that the death is not suspicious and a port-mortem examination found no signs of intoxication, third-party injury, bruising, or needle puncture sites. Only marks consistent with death by hanging were found on his body, the coroner said.

It comes amid a string of deaths of senior Russian oil executives since Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian-born oligarch Mikhail Watford was also found dead from suicide in Virginia Water in February 2022 at his home, which was a six-minute drive away from Trushin’s mansion.

Trushin’s girlfriend for some 20 years told the coroner’s court in a witness statement that when the war in Ukraine started, Trushin’s accounts in Switzerland were frozen. While they didn’t ever speak much about money, she said this “did make him feel insecure”.

The night that Trushin was found dead at home his daughter, who lives in Miami, and his partner both received an email from him explaining his death. The court heard that Trushin lived on his own, separately from his wife and long-term partner, and rarely received visitors at his £3.2m Surrey home, seeing friends “two to three times a year”.

He said in the email that he was bankrupt because he had been cheated out of money, and did not believe he was ready to do business outside of Russia. He said his life had been a wonderful journey and that he wanted people to think he had had a heart attack.

Russian opposition activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky paid tribute to Trushin, describing him as ‘an optimistic individual’ (Getty Images)

In the week leading up to his death, Trushin had stopped his daily routine of swimming in his pool. When asked why he had stopped swimming by a housekeeper, he replied that he did not have time because there was “lots of work to be done”.

He also told his housekeeper to not put on the alarm system for the perimeter of his property in the week leading up to his death and he would go to bed late, sometimes at 2am.

One of his staff members was also instructed to go to Selfridges to stock up on Trushin’s favourite yoghurt but was asked to buy only enough to last until 29 July. However one of his housekeepers told the court that Trushin had been planning to go to the Cayman Islands, adding: “I don’t understand why this would happen.”

The court was shown CCTV from the night of his death showing him walking from the main house to the “summer kitchen”, an outbuilding in his garden, where he was later found dead. The next people to be recorded on CCTV were staff who discovered him in the early hours of the morning.

They had been called in the middle of the night by Trushin’s daughter who grew distressed after she read the email suicide note he had sent her.

Mr Khodorkovsky, who now lives in the UK following his release from Russian prison in 2013, reacted to the news saying: “I deeply regret the tragic details of Mikhail Trushin’s passing.

“This is news to me, as until this moment, I believed that his death was due to natural causes. Mikhail Trushin worked in my company, Yukos, in the early 2000s, coming from the Moscow City Hall. He was involved in working with the regions where Yukos conducted its operations, establishing connections with local communities. I remember him as an optimistic individual and a successful manager.”

A spokesperson for Surrey Police said: “We were called in the early hours of Friday 29 July to an address in Virginia Water where the body of a man in his 60s had been found.

“The death was fully investigated and deemed non-suspicious.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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