WASHINGTON—A longtime adviser to Russian President Vladmir Putin has been found dead at a Washington, D.C. Hotel.
Mikhail Lesin–who, in addition to being a Putin confidant, was the inspiration for Russia Today (RT), the state-run Kremlin news service–was found deceased in his hotel room at the Dupont Circle Hotel on Thursday, according to reports.
Russian state media is reporting that the 57-year-old died of a heart attack. D.C. police said they have assigned detectives onto the case who specialize in natural cause deaths, according to the Washington Post.
Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti quoted a family member of Lesin’s who said that he had indeed been suffering from illness and died “from a heart stroke.” The name of the family member was not revealed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on Saturday from Moscow: “The president has a high appreciation for Mikhail Lesin’s massive contribution to the creation of modern Russian mass media.”
In a 2007 interview, Lessin said he helped create RT “to establish a news channel that would counter CNN and BBC–with a Moscow spin.”
Lessin created some enemies in Congress due to controversy over the Kremlin network broadcasting its message in America.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) has called for a the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into Lesin’s alleged corruption and accused him of money laundering.
“That a Russian public servant could have amassed the considerable funds required to acquire and maintain these assets in Europe and the United States raises serious questions,” Wicker stated, according to ABC News.
Sen. Wicker said in a letter to former Attorney General Eric Holder that Lesin had managed to purchase homes in Los Angeles valued at $28 million dollars “during his tenure as a civil servant.”
From 1999 to 2004, he served as Moscow’s Minister of Press, Television, and Radio, a position that granted him enormous power. While he had control over the press, Lessin would often accompany Vladimir Putin on trips to foreign nations.
From 2004 to 2009, he served as an adviser to Putin, Sputnik News, a Russian state-run agency, reported.
In 2013, Lessin was appointed to head Gazprom-Media Holding, which is the largest Russian mass media entity.
Little is known about the activities Lesin engaged in during the Soviet era in Russia.