RFE/RL reports: On November 3, 2015, hundreds of guests gathered at the swanky Ritz-Carlton hotel in the U.S. capital for a dinner honoring Russian billionaire and philanthropist Pyotr Aven and Susan Lehrman, a Washington socialite, investor, and patron of the arts.
On the guest list that evening, RFE/RL has confirmed, was Mikhail Lesin, a former Russian press minister, Kremlin adviser, and central player in President Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of state control over the media.
Lesin never showed up. And less than 48 hours later, on November 5, his battered body was discovered in his 9th-floor suite at Washington’s Dupont Circle Hotel.
His death sparked months of fervent speculation about what — or who — might have killed the former Kremlin insider, what he was doing in Washington, and the wall of silence that both city and federal authorities had erected around the matter.
Exactly who invited Lesin to the dinner, organized by the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, could not be immediately established. The research center, which focuses on the study of Russia and the former Soviet Union, said he was slated to sit at the table of one of the event’s sponsors but declined to say which.
Lesin’s empty seat at the dinner is among a scant handful of details about his final days that have emerged in the four months since his death, which has spawned theories that he was killed for spilling Kremlin secrets to the U.S. government — or even that he entered witness protection.
The New York Times adds: One law enforcement official said there were no obvious signs of forced entry or foul play in his hotel room. Mr. Lesin did, however, appear disheveled when he returned to the hotel, according to the video surveillance cameras, the official said. [Continue reading…]