Russia’s deputy science minister has died suddenly after falling seriously ill on a flight to Moscow.
Pyotr Kucherenko, 46, an alleged private critic of the ‘fascist’ invasion of Ukraine, was returning from a business trip to Cuba when his plane was forced to make an emergency landing in southern Russia, the Science and Higher Education Ministry said on Sunday, May 21.
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 spoken in private about his inability to escape Russia following what he called the ‘fascist invasion’ of Ukraine.
Mr Kucherenko is survived by his wife, Georgian Eurovision talent Diana Gurtskaya, and their 15-year-old son.
His death is the latest among high-profile Russians 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.
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 recognise 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.’
Mr. 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.