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Mikhail Lesin, a prominent Russian political figure and mass media expert who helped create the English-language news service Russia Today, has been found dead in a Washington DC hotel room. Russia’s RIA Novosti reports “Mikhail Lesin died from a heart stroke” according to family members.

A spokesperson for DC’s Metro Police said that officers were called to the hotel Thursday morning after the body was found at the luxurious Dupont Circle Hotel. Russian Embassy spokesman Yury Melnik confirmed that the man was Lesin. Lesin died at the age of 57. RT and other international outlets reported that Lesin has been suffering from a prolonged unidentified illness.

Police are conducting an investigation despite lacking signs of foul play.

Mikhail Lesin was a former press minister from 1999 to 2004 and a Presidential aide to Vladimir Putin from 2004 to 2009. Lesin went on to become a senior executive at Gazprom-Media, Russia’s largest media holding company. He resigned from Gazprom-Media last year.

Lesin believed in making Russian views “heard at the international level”, as reported by RT. “It’s been a long time since I was scared by the word propaganda,” Lesin said in 2007. “We need to promote Russia internationally. Otherwise, we’d just look like roaring bears on the prowl.”

Russia Today, known as RT, was set up in 2005 reporting events with a pro-Kremlin interpretation. RT broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic as well as Russian and has also launched a UK-focused channel.

Last year, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker called for an investigation into Mikhail Lesin, saying his fortune “raises serious questions” in relation to him being a government official. In a letter (PDF) to the US Department of Justice, Senator Wicker claimed Lesin bought property worth $28 million in Los Angeles for his family after leaving the government.


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