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Russia Presses for Details in Ex-Putin Aide's Death

by VOA News March 11, 2016

Russian officials complain they've been frustrated in repeated efforts to get information about the mysterious death of Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to President Vladimir Putin whose battered body was found in a Washington hotel room four months ago.

Senior Russian officials spoke out hours after authorities in the U.S. capital issued a brief statement explaining the Russian media magnate's death was caused by 'blunt force trauma.' The Russian Foreign Ministry's chief spokeswoman indicated a high-level diplomatic request was on the way to Washington.

News of developments in the Lesin case broke late Thursday when police in Washington and the office of the city's medical examiner said in a joint statement that his death was caused by head injuries, but that he also had suffered injuries to his neck, torso, arms and legs. The statement did not indicate what caused the blunt-force head injury, and it did not explain whether Lesin, who was in his late 50s, died by accident or was murdered.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Russian Embassy in Washington has received no 'substantive information' about Lesin's death despite repeated inquiries through diplomatic channels, and was only aware of media reports about the autopsy.

Now, however, Zakharova wrote in a Facebook post, 'Russian authorities will send a request to the Americans for international legal assistance.'

Ongoing investigation

Authorities in Washington said their investigation was continuing, and they declined to answer reporters' questions about whether Lesin's death was caused by a criminal act. The State Department referred all questions about the case to law enforcement agencies.

Lesin was found dead in his room at a hotel in Washington's Dupont neighborhood on November 5, two days after he unexpectedly failed to appear at a gala dinner elsewhere in Washington. The New York Times quoted an unidentified official Friday as saying that Lesin's extensive injuries were the result of 'some sort of altercation' that occurred before he returned to the hotel.

Focus of a probe

A former media adviser and press secretary to Putin, Lesin had helped launch the Kremlin-backed English-language news agency Russia Today, which says its mission is 'to convey Russian positions to the international audience.'

He became the chief of Gazprom-Media Holding beginning in 2013 but stepped down the following year, RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty reported Friday.

Leslin was the subject of a U.S. senator's request to the U.S. Justice Department in 2014 to investigate whether he broke U.S. laws against money laundering in buying several expensive homes in Los Angeles. The California homes were purchased in the name of a corporation controlled by Lesin.

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