Ex-Russian press minister's 2015 Washington death ruled accidental

October 28, 2016 12:22 PM EDT

Former Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin gestures during a news conference in Moscow in this September 20, 2000 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer/Files


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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The death last year in Washington of Mikhail Lesin, a Russian media executive and former adviser to President Vladimir Putin, was accidental and caused partly by alcohol poisoning after days of heavy drinking, U.S. authorities said on Friday.

Lesin, who was found dead in his hotel room on Nov. 5, 2015 at the age of 57, died partly from "acute ethanol intoxication," according to a statement by Washington's Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Lesin served as Putin's press minister from 1999 to 2004. He was named head of Russia's state-controlled Gazprom-Media in 2013 but resigned the following year and moved to Los Angeles.

In 2014, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Lesin for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Wicker, a Republican, questioned how Lesin was able to purchase $28 million worth of property in Los Angeles after he stopped working for the Russian government.

While Lesin's death sparked rumors of foul play at the time, law enforcement officials said the Justice Department had no open investigation of the case. On the night he died, Lesin was scheduled to attend a Washington gala honoring Russian billionaire and philanthropist Pyotr Aven, according to Radio Free Europe. But he never showed up.

The statement issued by U.S. authorities said Lesin entered his room at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington for the last time "after days of excessive alcohol consumption."

After reviewing video footage and evidence gathered during an investigation of Lesin's death, Washington's chief medical examiner concluded he died "as a result of blunt force injuries to his head, with contributing causes being blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities, which were induced by falls, with acute ethanol intoxication," the statement said.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Paul Simao)



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