A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE stooge for Vladimir Putin has been found dead in his office in the latest mystery death to hit Russia.
Anton Cherepennikov, 40, a key figure in Putin’s spying operation, was discovered at the property in Moscow.
His cause of death according to Russian media was “cardiac arrest” despite there being no post-mortem.
And one of his close pals has gone public insisting that he does not believe this is the case.
Cherepennikov was seen as a sinister figure amongst the Russian elite – who have developed a habit of dropping dead.
He was the owner of most systems for wiretapping phones and storing internet traffic in Russia.
It comes after the death of billionaire oligarch Igor Kudryakov – a former government official and wealthy businessman.
And this means two high-profile figures linked to Putin’s regime have been confirmed dead in just 48 hours.
Before any post-mortem, media accounts quickly stated he had died from “cardiac arrest”.
This was immediately treated with suspicion.
Cherepennikov’s longtime friend Vasily Polonsky insisted: “I do not believe [he died of] cardiac arrest.”
“The exact cause of the entrepreneur’s death will be determined later,” reported Baza media outlet.
“He was an absolutely key tool in Putin’s repression,” said an opposition source.
“His assassination cannot be ruled out as the security apparatus becomes desperate due to the failing war.”
His Citadel holding company was described as “almost a monopoly on the wiretapping of Russians”.
This followed draconian laws under which telecom operators must store audio recordings of all calls and text messages for six months, and Internet internet traffic for a month.
His business worked hand in glove with Putin’s feared FSB security service, and its employees included key figures trained by the counterintelligence service – and their close relatives.
Heavy smoker Cherepennikov was considered the key playing behind SORM – the ‘the system of technical means to ensure the functions of operational-search activities’, or total wiretapping in Russia.
His success in acting as the state’s electronic snooper meant a profit of £172 million for his operation, it was reported.
Cherepennikov was seen as close to his “idol”, Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov, formerly a shareholder of Arsenal football club in London.
The web sleuth studied at prestigious Bauman Moscow State Technical University and Moscow State University of Civil Engineering.
He went into business initially importing Blackberry phones, and selling computers and printers.
He played the computer game Counter-Strike and poker.
The shadowy businessman was described as “competitive” and a gambler.
Cherepennikov divorced his first wife who he met on a dating site, blaming his compulsive working habits for 15 hours a day.
He married again, to a woman named Anna, whom he also met on a dating site.
A string of suspicious deaths have hit Russia since the months leading up to Putin’s ill-judged war in Ukraine.
Dozens of military figures, government officials, and business people have all died in sudden and often unexplained deaths.
Some can likely be chalked up to genuine health problems and suicides, but many have raised questions.
Putin is understood to rule a murderous regime happy to kill anyone that gets in its way or who is not longer of use to them.
Vlad has been branded as running a modern-day version of the mafia gang “Murder Inc”.
His war continues to roll on – with Ukraine today launching another massive drone strike on Russian bases in occupied Crimea.
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