A Russian businessman and rumoured critic of president Vladimir Putin has died after falling from a third-floor window of an Indian hotel just days after a friend died on the same trip.
Pavel Antov was visiting Odisha, an eastern state on the Bay of Bengal, and had just celebrated his 65th birthday at the hotel. His friend Vladimir Budanov died of a heart attack during the celebrations.
The millionaire and local politician was a member of the Russian parliament’s United Russia party, which was formerly headed by Mr Putin.
Last June, Mr Antov was forced to deny criticising the war in Ukraine after a message appeared on his WhatsApp account.
Mr Antov’s death at the Hotel Sai International in Rayagada joins a string of other unexplained deaths of Russian magnates since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, many of whom have criticised the conflict.
The Russian state-owned Tass news agency reports that the sausage tycoon fell from a window at the hotel in the city of Rayagada on Sunday. Odisha police superintendent Vivekananda Sharma said Mr Budanov was found to have suffered a stroke two days earlier, while his friend Mr Antov “was depressed after his death and he too died” in the fall.
The Russian consul in Kolkata told the Tass that police did not see a “criminal element in these tragic events”, while a tourist guide suggested Mr Budanov may have “consumed a lot of alcohol as he had liquor bottles”.
Mr Antov is the founder of the Vladimir Standard meat processing plant and in 2019 Forbes pegged his fortune at $140m (£118m).
The millionaire was forced to refute his rumoured criticism of Russia’s invasion after he appeared to react to an attack on a residential block in the Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv. The bombardment killed one man and left his daughter, seven, and her mother badly injured.
“It’s extremely difficult to call all this anything but terror,” a WhatsApp message on Mr Antov’s account read, following a description of how the family were pulled out of the rubble.
The message was deleted and the Russian lawmaker wrote on social media that he was a supporter of the president, a “patriot of my country” and backed the war on Ukraine.
The WhatsApp message had come from someone whose opinion on the “special military operation in Ukraine” he strongly disagreed with, he insisted. It had been posted accidentally on his messenger and was a highly annoying misunderstanding, he said.