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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kommersant Speculates About Sobchak's Death




In the wake of the death of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, the press has begun focusing attention on the idea that - official diagnosis notwithstanding - the controversial politician may not have died of natural causes.


The influential Kommersant Daily newspaper ran an unsigned story - attributed only to its "crime department" - on Tuesday prefaced by the statement that "many things in the circumstances behind Sobchak's death remain unknown; nonetheless, there will be neither a second autopsy nor an investigation into his death."


The article simply retells the previously reported details of Sobchak's death on Sunday in a hotel room in the Kaliningrad region.


The paper states that Sobchak's visit took place at the request of acting President Vladimir Putin, Sobchak's former student and deputy. (According to the paper, Putin had appointed his former boss to be his special envoy in St. Petersburg early last week.)


The story reconfirms that Sobchak, who has suffered several heart attacks in recent years, retired to his room at 10 p.m. complaining of chest pains and was discovered by "the guest staying next door to him" - presumably an aide - half an hour later. By 11 p.m., an ambulance was summoned, but by the time doctors arrived, Sobchak showed no signs of life.


The Kommersant account is interspersed with so-called "unanswered questions," such as why did Sobchak leave the door of his room unlocked? Or why was an ambulance called only 30 minutes after he was found unconscious? The story also points out that Sobchak's aides were not alarmed by his complaints because they knew he "always had the necessary medicines" when he traveled.


In many cases, the authors moderate their hints at the possibility of foul play by providing plausible - but certainly not incriminating - answers to their own questions. For example, regarding the unlocked door they postulate that, "perhaps he felt so unwell that he was scared to lock the door from inside." They also consent that Sobchak's heart failure could have resulted from his tight schedule in Kaliningrad - where he had to face down tough questions on the corruption charges that forced him to flee to Paris in 1998 - or similar stress-inducing circumstances.


It is unclear whether the Kommersant article is an example of a "sensationalist" tactic by journalists or a setup for more significant revelations about Sobchak's death.