- Russian Foreign Ministry
Mirgayas Shirinskiy, 63, “was found in his residence with evidence of an acute heart attack,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, told BBC on Thursday.
Two of them died from heart attacks, and Shirinsky would be the third.
Most notable was former Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, who died of a heart attack in February in New York. The US State Department asked the New York City medical examiner’s office to not release his autopsy.
Roman Skrynikov, the former Russian ambassador to Kazakhstan, also died of an apparent heart attack in December 2016.
Five other prominent Russians, besides the three ambassadors, have also died of apparent heart attacks in the last 14 years, Buzzfeed News and USA Today previously reported, and Russia is possibly behind dozens of other mysterious deaths outside its borders in that time.
What’s concerning here is that Russia, according to Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former counter-terror commander, is skilled at “disguising murder” by using biological or chemical agents that leave no trace.
Like Alexander Perepilichnyy, a former Russian financier who was about to shed light on a $230 million money laundering operation perpretated by the Russian mafia and government officials.
His 2012 death in Great Britain was initially ruled a heart attack by the police, but an investigator later found trace amounts of Himalayan gelsemium elegans plant in his system, which can cause cardiac arrest.
- REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Still, natural causes could easily be the cause in any number of these cases, given Russia’s demographics.
“There are simply a lot of really weird coincidences in this world,” Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, an intelligence expert at the Harvard Kennedy School, told the Washington Post.
“That said, I think there’s a story here that deserves deeper investigation,” Mowatt-Larssen told the Post, adding that while “eliminating a diplomat is rare … Putin might love the fact that his diplomats are fearful of him – he might find that quite convenient.”
Shirinskiy’s death happened just before Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s planned visit to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
The Hague has had an international warrant out for Bashir’s arrest for years over the genocide in Darfur, and Putin’s invitation to the Sudanese president could indicate the Kremlin’s attempt to influence the Middle East and Sub-Saharan region.