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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Murder a Possibility in Satiyev Drowning

Prosecutors in Nizhny Novgorod have opened a murder investigation into the mysterious drowning of the head of one of the country's largest car dealerships.

The body of Yevgeny Satiyev, co-owner and board chairman of Avtomir, was dragged from the bottom of the Volga River on Saturday, one day after he disappeared during a boating trip with business associates.

Initial reports suggested that Satiyev had died in an accident, since he had no visible injuries. But Irina Monakhova, spokeswoman for the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Prosecutor's Office, said Thursday that a murder investigation had been opened because Satiyev had suffered injuries to the back of his head.

The injuries had not been immediately visible because they were concealed by his hair, Monakhova said. Investigators are now trying to determine whether they were caused by an accident or violence, she said, adding that autopsy results would be ready in about 10 days.

She declined to give any preliminary theories about the cause of death.

Avtomir, a network of car dealerships, leads the Russian market in terms of individual car sales, company spokesman Alexander Bruk said Thursday.

Satiyev was in Nizhny Novgorod for negotiations with a company called Kit-Kar and went boating with the company president, the head of a company called Rusavtosbyt, and several other people, Bruk said.

The businessmen stopped for a rest Friday on Telyachy Island, also called Savin Island, about 40 kilometers from Nizhny Novgorod, prosecutors said.

What happened next remains unclear. Satiyev's associates said they were playing volleyball on the island while Satiyev stayed behind on the yacht to take a nap, Monakhova said.

But they said Satiyev was nowhere to be found when they returned, and his body was found near the yacht at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning, Monakhova said.

"They say they didn't see any of what happened," she said in a telephone interview.

The diver who found Satiyev's body speculated in a Tuesday interview with the business news portal Dp.ru that the businessmen might have been drinking.

"It was a respectable group," Igor Andrianov, an Emergency Situations Ministry rescue worker, told the web site. "They were probably drinking, but that's only natural. Who goes out into nature to play checkers and chess?"

Bruk said the company did not believe Satiyev was murdered.

"We believe it was an accident," he said. "However, we want to see prosecutors bring the case to a close."

Yekaterina Khodan, Satiyev's personal assistant at Avtomir, said Thursday that the company was in shock from his death. She added that Satiyev had been well loved by all of his employees, down to the drivers and cleaning ladies.

"This is a huge loss for everyone," she said.

The company's board of directors chose Alexander Mitko to replace Satiyev as its chairman, Gazeta.ru reported Tuesday. Mitko co-founded Avtomir in 1993 together with Satiyev and was its general director until 2002.