Well-known Russian sausage industry tycoon Pavel Antov – who leveled notable criticism of President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine – was found dead Sunday outside a luxury hotel in Rayagada, India, as the BBC reports, and in a mysterious –and arguably suspicious – twist, his death came mere days after his friend and travel companion died on the same trip.
The deceased men were reportedly visiting the state of Odisha in the eastern part of the country and had celebrated Antov's upcoming 66th birthday as part of the getaway.
Antov's death was said to have been the result of a fall from a third-floor window at the hotel where he and his travel companions were staying.
Oddly, his demise came close on the heels of the death Friday of Vladimir Budanov, a friend of Antov's who had made the trip to India with him.
Budanov was said to have suffered a stroke, according to The Hill, and local Police Superintendent Vivekanand Sharma declared that Antov had been “depressed” in the aftermath of that event and subsequently took his own life.
Russian news agency Tass offered its own take on the situation, saying, “A tourist group of four was resting at a hotel in Rayagad. Last Thursday, Russian Vladimir B. died. According to the police, the cause of this was a heart attack. Last Saturday, a second Russian deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Vladimir Region, Pavel Antov, fell out of the window.”
Alexei Idamkin, the Russian Consul based in Calcutta claimed that local police had no suspicions of any “criminal element” linked to the deaths.
The news of Antov's death under such bizarre circumstances prompted recollections in the media of comments he made lasts summer critical of Putin's Ukraine invasion.
As the BBC noted, back in July, Antov spoke out on WhatsApp, blasting Russian missile attacks on Kyiv and posting a news story describing the ordeal of a Ukrainian girl who had to be pulled from the rubble of her home after it had been destroyed in the conflict.
“It's extremely difficult to call all this anything but terror,” Antov said at the time.
Antov swiftly issued an apology for the post, suggested it had been written by someone else, and declared himself to be “a supporter of the president and my country's patriot” who also “shared the goals” of the mission in Ukraine, according to the New York Post.
As the Post further noted, Antov founded the Vladimir Standard sausage processing company and was believed to be the Russia's top-earner in the legislature.
According to Russian Forbes, Antov raked in roughly $156 million per year by virtue of his meat packing and processing enterprise.
In addition, Antov was an influential figure in the Vladimir legislative assembly, helming a committee focused on ecology and agrarian issues.
Responding to the news of Antov's death, Vyacheslav Kartukhin, deputy chairman of the assembly, stated that his colleague had died under “tragic circumstances.”
It is not surprising that speculation is swirling about other, potentially nefarious explanations for Antov's death, given that a number of other Russian moguls who have expressed doubts about Putin's intentions in Ukraine have also died under questionable circumstances.
As the Post noted, in September, Ravil Maganov, head of Russian oil behemoth Lukoil, died after reportedly falling out of a Moscow hospital window, and according to The Hill, Ivan Pechorin, Putin's former point man in development efforts in the Arctic died from a fall from a boat that same month, not long after Igor Nosov, his former boss, was said to have died of a stroke at age 43.
The question of whether Antov was the victim of a politically motivated hit may well remain unanswered, considering that, according to The Hill, authorities in India cremated his body the day after he died, thus precluding the sort of probe that would almost certainly yield greater insight into the case.