Russian defence official dies after falling from St. Petersburg tower window

Image of Marina Yankina, a high-ranking official in Russia's Defence Ministry who mysteriously died on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. Twitter

A top Russian defence official has been found dead after apparently falling from the 16th floor of a high-rise apartment in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Russian media outlets reported.

At around 8 a.m., the body of a woman was found by police on the sidewalk in front of a tower block in the Kalininsky district. The woman was identified as Marina Yankina, 58, head of finance and procurement for the Russian Defence Ministry’s Western Military District, one of five arms of the Russian armed forces.

Located in western Russia, the Western Military District has suffered some of the heaviest losses in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Yankina’s death has been preliminarily ruled a suicide by Russia’s Investigative Committee, according to Fontanka, a local paper in St. Petersburg.

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National paper Kommersant reported that some of Yankina’s documents and belongings were found on the common balcony on the 16th floor of the apartment building. It is presumed this is where she fell.

According to Russian Telegram channel Mash, Yankina allegedly called her ex-husband, who lived in the building, minutes before her death to tell him that she was going to jump and that he should call the police. The report also claims Yankina had health issues.

Yankina’s death comes almost one year to the day after she criticized the U.S. and U.K. for insinuating that Russia would invade Ukraine, according to an advisor to Ukraine’s Internal Ministry. In a video posted to Twitter, Yankina told a broadcast news outlet that strategists in Washington and London were playing a “scary, strange, wild” political game and demanded apologies.

Just over a week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

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Yankina is far from the first Russian elite to meet a mysterious end since the start of the Ukraine war.

Just days ago, another defence official, Maj. Gen. Vladimir Makarov, was found dead in an apparent suicide outside Moscow. He had been recently fired from his job by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At least a dozen others have also died:

  • Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former head of a Russian aviation research university, died on the institute’s grounds after reportedly falling down numerous flights of stairs in late September 2022. The Moscow Aviation Institute, where Gerashchenko was serving as an adviser, said the death was accidental.
  • Vladimir Nikolayevich Sungorkin, the editor-in-chief of major state newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, died “suddenly” after appearing to suffocate, according to the paper he used to helm. An initial medical examination found that Sungorkin may have suffered a stroke. The Kremlin called his passing “a great loss to Russian journalism.”
  • Ivan Pechorin, an energy executive, died after falling overboard from a speed-boat and his body was later found after washing up on the coast of Russky Island in the Sea of Japan.
  • Ravil Maganov, chairman of the board of Russia’s largest private oil company, Lukoil, died after falling out of the sixth-storey window of a hospital. Lukoil was one of a few Russian companies to call for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Alexander Subbotin, a former top manager for Lukoil, was found dead in the basement of a shaman’s house after allegedly receiving a hangover treatment involving toad venom.
  • 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 one day before Protosenya and his family died.
  • Vasily Melnikov, owner of Medstom, a company that imports medical equipment into 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 a 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, U.K. Watford’s wife and children, who were home at the time, were not harmed. Watford changed his last name from Tolstosheya after moving to the U.K. in the early 2000s.
  • Alexander Tyulyakov, deputy general director of the treasury department for Gazprom, the largest publicly listed natural gas company in the world, was found hanged in the garage of his cottage. A note was found with his body leading investigators to conclude that Tyulyakov died by suicide.
  • Leonid Shulman, a top executive at Gazprom, was found dead in the bathroom of his cottage next to an apparent suicide note in the same neighbourhood where Tyulyakov would die a month later.

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