Russian minister, 46, becomes latest senior figure to die mysteriously during Ukraine war
Russia’s deputy science minister, allegedly a private critic of the ‘fascist’ invasion of Ukraine, has died suddenly, aged just 46, after falling seriously ill on a flight to Moscow on Saturday.
Pyotr Kucherenko was returning from a business trip to Cuba when the flight was forced to make an emergency landing in southern Russia, the Science and Higher Education Ministry confirmed yesterday.
Arriving doctors performed CPR but were unable to save the official. His family said the death was linked to an underlying heart condition, but the body is expected to undergo an autopsy on May 24.
Independent journalist Roman Super wrote after the announcement that his ‘old friend’ had previously spoken in private about his inability to escape Russia following what he called the ‘fascist invasion’ of Ukraine.
The official is survived by his wife, Georgian Eurovision talent Diana Gurtskaya, and their 15-year-old son.
Kucherenko’s is the latest death of a high profile Russian since the invasion of Ukraine. Last month, energy boss Igor Shkurko was found dead in his prison cell after he was accused of taking a bribe.
Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation Pyotr Kucherenko died while returning with a Russian delegation from a business trip to Cuba
Blind professional singer from Georgia Diana Gurtskaya is pictured with her husband
Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Council on Interethnic Relations in Pyatigorsk, 19 May
Roman Super said on Telegram that he had spoken to Kucherenko a few days before he had left Russia for security reasons in the wake of the invasion last year.
It was not clear exactly when the two were supposed to have spoken.
The pair reportedly spoke about plans to leave Russia and their frustrations over the invasion of Ukraine.
Super claimed the minister had told him to leave and save his family. He said ‘in a year you won’t recognize Russia at all. You leave and do the right thing.
Asked if he planned to leave himself, Kucherenko was reported to have said: ‘It is no longer possible to do so. They take away our passports. And there is not a world in which the Deputy Russian Minister will be happy after this fascist invasion.
Asked how he managed in Russia, the official was supposed to have said: ‘I take antidepressants and tranquillisers at the same time. Handfuls. And it doesn’t help much… nobody can say anything. Immediately crushed like aphids.
Kucherenko’s cause of death has not yet been established.
Health authorities in Starvopol, southwestern Russia, reported after the emergency landing that one passenger had fallen ill on the plane from Havana to Moscow.
The plane landed at the airport in Mineralnye Vody, where an ambulance met them.
Doctors boarded the plane and performed CPR. Despite the doctors ‘doing everything they could to save the patient… unfortunately he died’, a press release read.
Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Chernyshenko, and the Deputy Director of the Latin American Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Guskov, were also reportedly on board the flight.
A number of officials and oligarchs have died young under mysterious circumstances since the outbreak of the war.
At the end of last year, the trend became so familiar that The Atlantic dubbed it ‘Sudden Russian Death Syndrome’.
More than two dozen high profile Russians have died since the start of the war.
Last month, top energy boss Igor Shkurko was found dead in his prison cell after he was accused of taking a bribe.
The 49-year-old was the deputy general director of Russian energy company Yakutskenergo.
He was a member of the pro-Putin United Russia political party but his membership was suspended when the bribe allegation was made.
Only two months prior, Russian oil magnate Viatcheslav Rovneiko, 59, was ‘found unconscious’ late at night at his home.
Doctors were unable to save him from dying, according to a report by the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
Kucherenko (right) is pictured with his wife, the professional singer Diana Gurtskaya
Diana Gurtskaya (C) performs during the Eurovision Song Contest Semifinal in Belgrade, May 22, 2008
Kucherenko was married to the professional singer Diana Gurtskaya, famed in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Gurtskaya, 44, became the second ever representative at the Eurovision Song Contest in Georgia when she performed in 2008.
She was born with visual impairment and has been involved in a range of charity work for improving inclusive practices in Russia.
In 2013, she was appointed a member of the Commission under the President of the Russian Federation for Disabled People.
Last year, she was awarded with ‘People’s Artist of the Russian Federation’, the highest title awarded to Russian citizens.
She and Kucherenko have a 15-year-old son, Konstantin.