Another prominent member of Russian society has died, the latest in a string of mysterious deaths among top businessmen and oligarchs in the embattled country.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Sungorkin, 68, editor-in-chief of major state newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, died “suddenly” after appearing to have “suffocated”, according to the paper he used to manage.

The Kremlin confirmed the death on Wednesday, calling his passing “a great loss for Russian journalism.”

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Sungorkin was in Primorye, in Russia’s Far East, gathering material for a forthcoming book and accompanied by his colleague Leonid Zakharov when he died.

“It happened completely suddenly, nothing forewarned,” Zakharov wrote of the incident on Wednesday. “We were in the village of Roshchino. We were driving. We were already on our way to Khabarovsk. We planned to get there tonight, and from there to Moscow. Everything was good.”

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Zakharov says Sungorkin suggested they take a break and “find a beautiful place somewhere … for lunch” just before they went into medical distress.

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“Three minutes later, Vladimir Nikolaevich began to suffocate. We took him out into the fresh air. He was already unconscious,” wrote Zakharov. “The doctor who conducted the initial examination said that … apparently it was a stroke. But this is the first conclusion.”

Komsomolskaya Pravda was founded in 1925 as the official voice of the Central Committee of Komsomol, the Communist Youth League. It is a pro-Kremlin publication that has been described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite paper.

Sungorkin had worked as the paper’s editor-in-chief and managing director since 1997. He was sanctioned by the European Commission in April after Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.

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Sungorkin’s death comes just four days after another Russian elite, Ivan Pechorin, an energy executive, died under mysterious circumstances after falling overboard from a speedboat on Saturday night.

Before these two deaths this week, several other Russian oligarchs had died suspiciously this year alone:

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  • Ravil Maganov, chairman of Russia’s largest private oil company Lukoil, died after falling from a sixth-floor window at a hospital. Lukoil was one of the few Russian companies calling for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Alexander Subbotin, a former top executive of Lukoil, was found dead in the basement of a shaman’s house after allegedly receiving a hangover treatment involving toad poison.
  • Sergey Protosenya, a former executive at Novatek, the largest independent natural gas producer in Russia, was found hanged outside a Spanish villa along with the bodies of his wife and 18-year-old daughter. The deaths appeared to be a murder-suicide.
  • Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest bank, was found dead in his Moscow apartment along with the bodies of his wife and 13-year-old daughter. The deaths also appeared to be a murder-suicide. Avayev and his family were found a day before Protosenya and his family died.
  • Vasily Melnikov, owner of Medstom, a company that imports medical equipment to Russia, and his family were all found dead in their luxury apartment in Nizhny Novgorod. Melnikov, his wife and their 10-year-old and four-year-old sons had been stabbed to death, and the murder weapons were found at the crime scene. Investigators again concluded that the deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.
  • Mikhail Watford, a Ukrainian-born oligarch who made his millions as an oil and gas tycoon, was found hanged in the garage of his home in Surrey, UK. Watford’s wife and children, who were home at the time, were not injured. Watford changed his surname from Tolstosheya after moving to the UK in the early 2000s.
  • Alexander Tyulyakov, deputy general director of the finance department of Gazprom, the largest publicly traded natural gas company in the world, was found hanged in the garage of his summer house. A note was found with his body, leading investigators to conclude that Tyulyakov died by suicide.
  • Leonid Shulman, a top Gazprom executive, was found dead in the bathroom of his summer cottage next to an apparent suicide note in the same neighborhood where Tyulyakov would die a month later.

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