A vice-president of the Putin-linked Gazprombank has sensationally claimed that his former colleague who was found dead alongside his family in an apparent murder-suicide was assassinated.
Vladislav Avayev, 51, a former Kremlin official who also served as vice-president at the bank, appeared to have taken his own life after shooting dead his wife Yelena, 47, and daughter Maria, 13, on the 14th floor of his luxury Moscow penthouse this month.
But Igor Volobuev, 50, who recently quit his top Moscow role at the prominent gas-for-rubles bank to fight against Russia in his native Ukraine, insists the executive’s death was ‘staged’ as a suicide.
He also claimed the death several days later of multimillionaire Sergey Protosenya, 55, by hanging in Spain, after his wife Natalia, 53, and their teenage daughter Maria were hacked to death by an axe, was an assassination.
Two other recent high profile suicides of Kremlin-linked figures at Russian gas firms have also been deemed suspicious.
Doubts have been cast over the ‘murder-suicide’ carried out by Gazprombank vice-president Vladislav Avayev (pictured)
Alongside the body of the multimillionaire was his ‘pregnant’ wife Yelena (pictured), 47, and younger daughter Maria, 13
Igor Volobuev (pictured), 50, who recently quit the bank, insists the executive’s death was ‘staged’ as a suicide
Russian gas tycoon Sergey Protosenya, his wife Natalya, 53, and teenage daughter Maria (pictured together) were also found dead in their Spanish mansion, in Lloret de Mar, on April 19
The Kremlin ‘suicides’: Four gas chiefs and their suspicious deaths
Vladislav Avayev: The Gazprombank vice-president, 51, was found dead in his penthouse Moscow apartment on April 18 alongside his wife Yelena and daughter Maria.
They were found by Avayev’s eldest daughter Anastasia with a gun in the father’s hand in the locked apartment.
Initial reports in Russia said Yelena was pregnant by their driver and Vladislav killed her in a fit of rage.
Others have doubted this and questioned why an FSB gun was found inside the flat.
Sergey Protosenya: The oligarch worth £350million was found dead in Spain with his wife Natalia and daughter Maria.
He was found hanged outside their Costa Brava villa while the two others were hacked to death inside.
But investigators found no blood on Sergey, no suicide note and no fingerprints on the weapon.
Sergey’s son Fedor said his father would never harm his family.
Alexander Tyulakov: On February 25, the day after the Ukraine war started, the senior Gazprom official’s body was discovered by his lover.
His neck was in a noose in his £500,000 home in a luxury Leningrad housing development.
Reports say he had been badly beaten shortly before he ‘took his own life’.
Leonid Shulman: In the same gated housing estate three weeks earlier, the head of transport at Gazprom Invest was found dead with multiple stab wounds on his bathroom floor.
Investigators said a note was found but they have not released its contents.
A knife was found on the bathtub, seemingly out of reach.
Pro-Kremlin media reported that Avayev had ‘tortured his wife for several hours before killing her – beating and shooting her in the legs and arms’ – believing she was pregnant by another man.
He suspected her of infidelity with his driver who had ‘fled to Moldova’, and tried to make her confess by shooting her in her limbs before killing her in their flat which was locked from the inside, it is claimed.
But other sources have denied she was pregnant and a rage of jealousy does not explain why he killed their daughter.
The trio were found dead by Avayev’s daughter Anastasia, 26, who told officers that the gun had been in her father’s hand.
Volobuev denied that Avayev – who may have had FSB links and was found with an FSB gun after his death – had left his role as the senior vice-president at Gazprombank, as was widely reported.
He was still at the bank and would have had access to accounts of its most elite clients, including Putin’s circle and possibly the president himself, he said.
Gazprombank is allegedly used by the president and his relatives and cronies, and was chosen by Putin to receive Western payments for gas in rubles.
‘Avayev reported to the deputy chairman of the board, Vladimir Ryskin,’ Volobuev said.
‘Ryskin at Gazprombank is responsible for personnel and special services for the bank’s VIP clients. That is, Avayev should have had access… to their accounts.’
As the senior vice-president, he would have included ‘information about income’, said Volobuev in interviews to the Ukrainian media.
‘It is hard to believe that Avayev shot his daughter, 13, [his wife] and committed suicide. In my opinion, this is a staged suicide. His suicide was staged.’
He added the suicide may have been ‘staged because he may have known too much’.
‘It is a very similar situation to Protosenya,’ said Volobuev.
Oligarch Protosenya was a former deputy chairman of Novatek, a company also closely linked to the Kremlin.
The former gas executive was found hanged in the garden of his luxury Spanish holiday home and the bodies of his wife Natalya and his 18-year-old daughter Maria were discovered butchered to death inside.
Pro-Kremlin media reported that Avayev (pictured) had ‘tortured his wife for several hours before killing her
Volobuev (pictured in 2010) denied that Avayev – who may have had FSB links and was found with an FSB gun after his death – had left his role as the senior vice-president at Gazprombank
The bodies of the Avayev family – all with gunshot wounds – were found by the couple’s distraught adult daughter Anastasia (pictured)
Pictured: Still grabs from a video purportedly showing the crime scene inside Avayev’s apartment in Moscow
Pictured: A general view of Avayev’s apartment building in Moscow
Spanish authorities initially suggested that Protosenya executed the pair before killing himself in an uncharacteristic fit of rage while the family enjoyed an Easter break on the Costa Brava.
But doubts have been cast over the killings, with Protosenya’s son Fedor saying his father ‘could never harm’ his wife and daughter and suggested all three members of his family were murdered.
Volobuev echoed his assertion, saying: ‘He allegedly stabbed everyone and hanged himself in Lloret de Mar, a small Spanish town, very populated by immigrants from Russia.
‘All these stories are strange. I don’t believe in suicide. It will not fit into my head.’
Similarly, Telegram channel Mozhem Obyasnit said that the two macabre incidents ‘are united by the former places of work of the victims – both are connected with Putin’s inner circle’.
Fedor told MailOnline yesterday: ‘My father is not a killer.’
Protosenya did not leave a suicide note and no fingerprints were found on the weapons – an axe and a knife – used to kill. There were no bloodstains on his body.
Pictured: Russian gas tycoon Sergey Protosenya, his wife Natalya, 53. The pair were found dead in Spain, along with their 18-year-old daughter
Fedor, a 22-year-old university student, was not at the villa because he spent Easter at the family home in Bordeaux, France. Fedor is pictured in Lloret de Mar
The Spanish holiday home of Sergey and Natalya Protosenya in Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain, is seen shuttered up after the family were found dead inside
Protosenya and his wife Natalia, 53, had two children together, the 18-year-old victim and Fedor who was in France at the time of the alleged killing spree
Spanish police have refused to release the findings of post mortem examinations of the three bodies that were carried out over the weekend, citing ‘police investigation secrecy’.
Fedor, a 22-year-old university student, was not at the villa because he spent Easter at the family home in Bordeaux, France.
He defended his father, saying: ‘He loved my mother and especially Maria my sister. She was his princess. He could never do anything to harm them. I don’t know what happened that night but I know that my dad did not hurt them.’
Fedor said the police had told him not to discuss the case. He raised the alarm when he was unable to contact any of his family by phone on Tuesday last week.
Businessman Anatoly Timoshenko, a close friend of the Russian oligarch told MailOnline: ‘Sergey did not do it. Sergey did not kill his family. It is impossible. I do not want to discuss what may have happened at the house that night but I know that Sergey is not a killer.’
Another friend Roman Yuravich added: ‘Sergey did not kill his family. I have known him for ten years. He was a happy man. He loved his family. He did not kill his wife and child. I am sure.’
Engineer and economist Protosenya had been chief accountant of Novatek, the largest independent producer of natural gas in Russia, between 2002 and 2014, and later vice president.
Sergey Protosenya’s son Fedor (pictured in Llarete del Mar, Spain) has claimed his father, who had been deputy chairman of major Russian gas firm Novotek, ‘could never harm’ his wife and daughter and suggested all three members of his family were murdered
The family’s son called Catalan police on Tuesday when he was unable to contact his family members for. Officers checked on the villa and found Protosenya dead in the courtyard of the house after apparently committing suicide. Pictured: A forensic investigator at the house
According to reports, Protosenya’s family lived in France but were holidaying a their Spanish when the killings took place. Pictured: Officers are seen outside the holiday home
He had a fortune of £350million, it is claimed.
Novatek is co-owned by close Putin friend Gennady Timchenko and the privileged giant had been recently excluded from the Kremlin leader’s edict to trade energy only in rubles.
The company is also closely linked to Pyotr Kolbin, a Putin childhood friend, allegedly a ‘shadow holder of Putin’s wealth’.
Protosenya died amid a legal battle over his shares in a Cyprus company, it was revealed.
This comes amid a shake-up in ownership in Russian business – where hidden and surrogate owners are common – triggered by Western sanctions which have frozen many fortunes.
Avayev and Protosenya are two of four mysterious deaths of Russian gas firm executives linked to Putin’s inner circle.
In February the battered bodies of senior Gazprom executives Alexander Tyulakov and Leonid Shulman were found in their luxury apartments in an elite housing development near St Petersburg.
On February 25, Tyulakov, 61, a senior Gazprom financial and security official at deputy general director level, was discovered by his lover.
Earlier this year, Alexander Tyulakov (left) and Leonid Shulman (right) also died in suspicious circumstances
Tyulakov and Shulman both died in the same luxury Leninsky gated housing development in Leningrad
His neck was in a noose in his £500,000 home.
Yet reports say he had been badly beaten shortly before he ‘took his own life’, leading to speculation he was under intense pressure.
In the same elite Leninsky gated housing development in Leningrad region three weeks earlier, Leonid Shulman, 60, head of transport at Gazprom Invest, was found dead with multiple stab wounds in a pool of blood on his bathroom floor.
A note was found, the contents of which have not been disclosed, and the Russian Investigative Committee reportedly refused to discuss the deaths.
A knife was found on the bathtub, seemingly out of reach.
Volobuev, was himself a vice-president of Gazprombank, and earlier headed the press service of Gazprom for many years.
Soon after the outbreak of war, he secretly left Russia to protect his native town Okhtyrka, in Sum region.
‘On the first day of the war my phone was hot,’ he said.
‘I was born and finished school in Okhtyrka. My father, younger brother and friends live there.
‘Literally in a few days I decided that I could no longer live in Russia.
‘Because the Russians were killing my father, killing my acquaintances, and close friends.
Volobuev (circled), was himself a vice-president of Gazprombank, and earlier headed the press service of Gazprom for many years
‘My father lived in a cold basement for a month. I was told by people whom I have known since childhood that they were ashamed of me.
‘Do you know what they told me?
”We never want to hear again that you are from Okhtyrka, or that you are Ukrainian. Never.’
‘I packed my things and flew out of Russia on March 2.’
He said of working in his senior role at Gazprombank: ‘I could no longer be among these people, shake hands with them, smile, look at this war on the phone like some kind of terrible movie.
‘And at the same time pretend that this does not concern me.
‘I came to Ukraine to defend my Okhtyrka with a weapon in my hands.
‘Back in 2014, when Crimea was occupied, I promised myself that if Russian tanks came to my Okhtyrka, I would go to war with them.’
He claimed Russia started the war against Ukraine ‘a long time ago’ with economic pressure and measures to discredit the country, and run it down.