Mikhail Lesin, the Russian media tycoon and political figure credited with helping to create news organization Russia Today (now RT), died in a Washington, D.C. hotel room Friday after suffering a heart attack. “Mikhail Lesin died from a heart stroke,” a family member told RIA Novosti.
Though no evidence of malice has been found surrounding 57-year-old Lesin’s death, a formal investigation is now underway. Rumors the former Russian Press Minister and ex-CEO of Gazprom-Media (Russia’s largest media holding) had been suffering an unidentified, prolonged illness have not been verified.
Lesin only left his job at the helm of Russia’s media wing after Putin disbanded the former government of Mikhail Kasyanov in 2009. A statement from President Vladimir Putin expressing condolences to Lesin’s family was released Friday.
“The president has a high appreciation for Lesin’s massive contribution to the creation of modern Russian mass media,” the Kremlin’s press service stated, as RT reported.
Lesin was dedicated to making the Russian voice heard around the world — something he explained in 2007, according to RT, in the following telling statement:
“It’s been a long time since I was scared by the word propaganda. We need to promote Russia internationally. Otherwise, we’d just look like roaring bears on the prowl.”
What, exactly, caused Lesin to visit Washington remains unclear — though with renewed Cold War-era bristling between the two nations over the morass in Syria (among other things), the mogul’s death warrants cautious scrutiny.
This report will be ongoing as further details are released.