Yuri Golubev, a founder of the besieged Russian oil company Yukos, was found dead in his London apartment Jan. 7, The Moscow Times reported Jan. 11. One cannot help questioning the cause of Golubev's death, the latest instance of a high-profile Russian dying in the United Kingdom.
One of the founding fathers of the beleaguered Yukos oil company, Yuri Golubev was found dead in his London apartment Jan. 7, The Moscow Times reported Jan. 11. Though the cause of death has not been determined, Golubev's associates say they do not believe it was suspicious. The mysterious death by polonium poisoning of former Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006, however, means the circumstances surrounding the deaths of prominent Russian Kremlin opponents will come under greater scrutiny. Golubev founded and helped shape Yukos before it was bought by Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Menatep Group. Khodorkovsky kept Golubev on as one of his closest advisers. Golubev later served on Yukos' board of directors, where he generally was perceived as third in command of the company, briefly running Menatep — the holding company which controlled all of Khodorkovsky's assets, including Yukos — while Khodorkovsky and his close associate Platon Lebedev went on trial for tax evasion and fraud. Although Golubev moved to London years ago and was never prosecuted, his association with Yukos and Khodorkovsky made him a possible Kremlin target. Litvinenko's demise has drawn attention to the Russian expatriate community in London, specifically the businessmen who left Russia to avoid Khodorkovsky's fate. Exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky has toned down his rhetoric since then, and Golubev's close friend and former Menatep colleague Konstantin Kagalovsky was quick to say he did not find Golubev's death suspicious. The expatriates could be avoiding suggesting Kremlin involvement due to concerns for their own safety, however. Although the 65-year-old Golubev quite possibly could have died of a heart attack brought on by natural causes, as Kagalovsky suggested, the timing of the death might not be coincidental. Targeting Golubev would help Russia's security services instill a sense of fear in London exiles. A Scotland Yard investigation will determine whether Golubev did die of natural causes. If he did, the whole thing can be ascribed to coincidence. An unnatural death, on the other hand, might illustrate the Kremlin's long reach.