Speculation grows over D.C. death of Putin propagandist



A prominent practitioner of information warfare and ex-aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin did not die of a heart attack in a Washington, D.C. hotel room last year as was previously reported, but from “blunt force injuries of the head” as well as “the neck, torso, upper extremities, and lower extremities,” a spokesperson with the D.C. medical examiner’s office told The Daily Beast.

The medical examiner reported Mikhail Lesin’s “manner of death” is “undetermined.” Following a Freedom of Information Act filed by The Daily Beast, the Department of Homeland Security disclosed that Lesin hadn’t obtained a green card or any legal residency status in the U.S.

Upon the news of Lesin’s death, the Kremlin issued a statement on behalf of Putin, noting that he had a “high appreciation for Mikhail Lesin’s massive contribution to the creation of modern Russian mass media.” But having Lesin as an informant would been a big contribution to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence. And the information that Wicker and his staff, as well as human rights groups and journalists, dug up on Lesin may have pushed him closer to the FBI’s arms—and ultimately into the path of a killer.

Karen Dawisha, a professor at Miami University and the author of “Putin’s Kleptocracy” about corruption among Putin’s allies, said that Mr. Lesin’s close ties to the Kremlin and its formal and informal controls over the media made him an improbable exile in the United States. “He knew more than most about the system’s dark center,” she told The New York Times:

Mr. Lesin began his rise to power in the Russian media after the fall of the Soviet Union, leveraging a successful foray into advertising into a top government post and, eventually, a lucrative job as an executive at Gazprom’s media branch. He served as a minister overseeing the media from 1999 to 2004, a period that coincided with Mr. Putin’s first term as president and a steady expansion of state control over television in particular. Mr. Lesin was an instrumental figure in those efforts to take control of the country’s media. He later served as a presidential adviser, with a mandate to help develop the government’s growing technology and media apparatus.

“It’s been a long time since I was scared by the word propaganda,” Lesin said in 2007, according to Russia Today’s website. “We need to promote Russia internationally. Otherwise, we’d just look like roaring bears on the prowl.”

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