The story of Russian 'Sausage King' who met his end in Odisha's Rayagada

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Bhubaneswar: While the mystery of death may confound many, certain ‘strange’ deaths may not throw up strange reasons upon investigation.

As 2022 drew to a close, the founder of a meat processing unit in Russia who amassed great wealth from his business and came to be known as (another) ‘Sausage King’, shortly following his birthday, allegedly jumped to his death from the third floor of the hotel in south Odisha’s Rayagada where he had checked in.

This meat tycoon, 65-year-old Pavel Antov, was also a legislator in Russia and one of President Vladimir Putin’s critics.

Vladimir Budanov, one of Antov’s travelling companions, had died two days before him. Odisha Police said Budanov died of a suspected heart attack, which caused Antov to be “depressed”.

Interestingly, the police drew flack for the investigation it conducted: the visceral remains of Antov were not preserved, neither was his post-mortem process documented through photographs or video-but this was done for Budanov who died in the same hotel.

A doctor at Rayagada hospital said that they received no instruction from the local police to film the post-mortem or preserve Antov’s viscera; but specific instruction to do these was given for Budanov’s process.

The Odisha crime branch took over the investigation from Rayagada police and a crime branch official affirmed that although it is not mandatory to film every autopsy, the “sensitive case involving a foreign national” should have been documented to “ensure transparency”.

The Odisha DGP, on the other hand, finds no “foul play” in the death of these two Russian nationals.

Who was Antov, the meat tycoon and lawmaker?

Antov’s company, Vladimir Standard, rose promptly to significance in Russia. As per Russian Forbes, Antov’s annual income summed up to nearly $156 million.

He was a politician and a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Vladimir Oblast. He was also a member of the United Russia party.

Additionally, Antov was a philanthropist, traveller and also a member of certain international organisations.

He was a voice against Putin

Antov was vocal against Putin over the Ukraine war. Terming the Kremlin’s missile attacks on Kiev as Russian “terror”, he posted on WhatsApp a story about a girl who was pulled from beneath the rubbles of her demolished home in Ukraine.

“It’s extremely difficult to call all this anything but terror,” he wrote.

However, Antov apologised for the message and explained that it was posted by someone else and said that he was “a supporter of the President” and “shared the goals” of the invasion and supported Putin’s military operation.

A number of Russian businessmen, most of whom were Putin’s critics, dropped dead curiously over the past few months.

Why the oligarchs matter

The lexical definition of an oligarch is an individual who through private acquisition of state assets amassed great wealth that is stored especially in foreign accounts and properties and who typically maintain close links to the highest government circles.

The political influence that the oligarch wields is that it can considerably manipulate the economic policies in the favour of their interest, thereby interfering with the state.

The implication of such a situation is that the oligarchs could be a potential threat to the state if their interests come in conflict.

Two years prior to Antov’s death, in November 2020, Vladimir Marugov, another Russian ‘Sausage King’, who owned some of the countrya’s largest meat-processing plants, was murdered in a sauna with a crossbow.

This oligarch, along with his partner, was in an outdoor sauna cabin when they were attacked by two masked assailants. Only his partner managed to escape. Marugov’s body had a crossbow next to it.

Marugov was killed at his estate just about 40 km from Moscow. Although the investigation agencies did not name him, but local media identified him as Marugov, the owner of the Ozyorsky and Meat Empire sausage factories.

As per the official investigation, the intruders demanded cash from Marugov before fleeing in a car.

His son, Alexander, died in a motorcycle accident in Moscow last year.


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