India probing wealthy Russian politician’s fall to death at hotel

Billionaire Pavel Antov’s death came two days after another member of his party was found dead at the same hotel in Odisha state.

Pavel Antov
In 2019, Forbes magazine ranked Pavel Antov as the richest among all parliamentarians and senior officials in Russia [Olexander Scherba/Twitter]

Indian police are investigating the sudden death of a wealthy Russian politician who reportedly criticised Moscow’s war in Ukraine as well as the unexpected death of one of his travelling companions, authorities said.

The body of Pavel Antov, 65, was found on Saturday in a pool of blood outside his lodgings at a luxury hotel in India’s eastern state of Odisha, where he was on holiday with three other Russian nationals.

The sausage tycoon died two days after another member of the travel party, Vladimir Bidenov, was found unconscious after suffering an apparent heart attack at the same hotel and could not be revived.

Police on Tuesday said they were reviewing security camera footage, questioning hotel staff and waiting on autopsy reports but, so far, there was no sign of foul play.

“All possible angles as regards to the deaths of two Russian nationals are being verified,” regional police chief Rajesh Pandit told the AFP news agency.

Bidenov’s death had likely been caused by binge drinking and a possible drug overdose, he said.

“So far, it seems that Antov accidentally fell from the hotel terrace,” he said.

“He was probably disturbed by the death of his friend and went to the hotel terrace and likely fell to his death from there,” the police chief said.

The officer said Antov and his friends had arrived in Odisha this month and visited several locations before arriving at their hotel in the southern district of Rayagada at the start of last week.

Two local travel agents accompanying the party have also been questioned along with the other two Russian members of the group.

Odisha police said in a statement the police chief “has ordered CID (Criminal Investigation Department) to take over the inquiry” into the two deaths.

Antov was a politician in Vladimir, a city 150km (90 miles) east of Moscow, where his meat-processing company is located.

Antov’s death was announced in Russia by the deputy head of the Vladimir Legislative Assembly, Vyacheslav Kartukhin, on Telegram.

“As a result of tragic circumstances, our colleague, a successful entrepreneur, and philanthropist Pavel Genrihovich Antov, passed away,” his post said. “On behalf of the deputies of the United Russia faction, I express my deep condolences to the family and friends.”

Antov had been a member of the regional parliament since 2018 and represented President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Before entering politics, he founded the Vladimirsky Standart company. In 2019, he was ranked the richest of all parliamentarians and senior officials in the country by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.

In June, Russian media published a WhatsApp message attributed to Antov that called a Kremlin missile bombardment of Ukraine “terrorism”.

Antov used the Russian social media network VK to deny writing the message, insisting he supported Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Source: News Agencies