After the death of a fourth prominent Russian oligarch, Sergey Protosenya, thought to be a murder-suicide was revealed on Wednesday, some are wondering if the recent string of deaths is connected. Protosenya was an executive at Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, Novatek.

Protosenya was found hanging dead in his villa in the coastal Spanish town of Lloret, along with his wife and 18-year-old daughter who were both reportedly stabbed. Investigators said the current assumption is a murder-suicide in the case but they are also exploring the potential of a third party murder, according to the Spanish paper El Punt Avui.

All the men were former allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin before his invasion of Ukraine.

Novatek itself even released a statement casting doubt on the thought of Protosenya committing a murder-suicide. They referred to Protosenya as “an outstanding person and a wonderful family man,” and also said they believed theories that he had a part in his family’s killings “bear no relation to reality.”

Protosenya’s death happened only a week after an eerily similar death happened in Moscow. Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprombank and once a Kremlin official, was found dead holding a gun, as well as his wife and youngest daughter who both had gunshot wounds.

These two murder-suicides in quick succession would have been concerning by themselves, but there were also two more apparent deaths by suicide by prominent individuals in the Russian energy sphere earlier this year. On February 25, Alexander Tyulyakov was found hanging in a cabin, and the month before Leonid Shulman was also found dead in a cabin with slashed wrists, with both deaths occurring near St. Petersburg.

Both Shulman and Tyulkyakov were employees of Gazprom, the massive gas producer which also is the parent company for Avayev’s former employer Gazprombank. Tyulkyakov was a deputy general director for the company going into his 10th year of employment and Shulman was head of Gazprom’s Invest transport service.

All of these men have been involved in the Russian gas industry in some way, which has been a key point of economic contention as the Russia-Ukraine war has been unfolding. Western sanctions have been targeting Russia’s powerful gas industry, but divesting completely from Russian oil is a tough call for many European countries’ economies. Even the U.S. has been facing higher-than-ever gas prices in the wake of the energy bans.

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