May 23, 2023 | 2:11 p.m.
A senior Russian official who reportedly called the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine a “fascist invasion” and lamented the “degree of brutalization of our state” has died of undisclosed causes after fleeing Cuba.
Piotr Kucherenko, 46, deputy science and higher education minister, fell ill on the flight to Russia with his delegation on Saturday, according to his office.
The plane made an emergency landing in the southern town of Mineralnye Vody, where doctors tried to save his life, The Times of London reported.
The politician is survived by his wife, pop singer Diana Gurtskaya, and their teenage son.
An unnamed source close to the widow told state media that her family believed the death was related to her heart condition, but they would await the results of an autopsy, the outlet said.
Roman Super, a freelance journalist who fled Russia shortly after Ukraine was invaded in February 2022, said on his Telegram channel that he spoke with Kucherenko “just a few days” before fleeing.
He said the policeman feared for his safety and urged him to leave the country as well.
“’Run yourself and your family. Leave as soon as possible. You cannot imagine the degree of brutality in our state. In a year, you won’t recognize Russia at all. When you leave, you do the right thing,” Kucherenko said, as quoted by Super, according to CNN.
Super said he had asked Kucherenko if he also wanted to flee, to which, he said, the minister replied, “It is no longer possible to do so. They take our passports from us. And there is no such world where they will now be happy with the Russian deputy minister after this fascist invasion.
Kucherenko also reportedly told the reporter that he was taking “antidepressants and tranquillizers” to cope but it “didn’t really help.”
“It doesn’t help much. I barely sleep. I feel bad. We have all been taken hostage. No one can say anything. Immediately crushed like aphids. Leave soon, Roma. And save everyone,” he reportedly added.
It is not known whether self-medication contributed to his death.
Several reports corroborated Kucherenko’s claim that the passports of senior Russian officials were confiscated to prevent them from fleeing the country after the invasion was launched.
Kucherenko joins the list of at least 13 high-profile Russians who have lost their lives in mysterious circumstances over the past 15 months.
In February, Marina Yankina, 58, finance and procurement manager for Russia’s Western Military District, died after an apparent fall from a skyscraper in St. Petersburg.
A preliminary investigation determined that she committed suicide.
Also that month, Interior Ministry Major General Vladimir Makarov, 72, died of an apparent suicide in a Moscow suburb.
Unconfirmed reports alleged he fell into a “deep depression” after being sacked by strongman Vladimir Putin in January.
In November, Colonel Vadim Boiko, 44, deputy director of the Makarov Pacific Higher Naval School in Vladivostok, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in what was also described as a suicide.
Boiko, who played a role in the mobilization efforts, ‘executed’ with five shots to the chest in his commanding officer’s office after he was allegedly set up to take the fall of some of the issues plaguing the invasion, according to his widow.
In December, sausage tycoon Pavel Antov, who has criticized the invasion of Ukraine, dove to his death from a luxury hotel in India – three days after his friend lost his life on the same trip.
Alexander Buzakov, the head of a major submarine shipyard, died suddenly that month, with no cause of death given by authorities.
In September, Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former rector of the Moscow Aviation Institute, died in an unspecified accident.
Lukoil chairman Ravil Maganov died earlier this month after falling out of a Moscow hospital window, according to TASS.