Jailed Russian general, 69, ‘who knew secrets of Putin’s £1billion Black Sea palace’ dies


A Russian general who was keeper of secrets about Vladimir Putin‘s £1 billion Black Sea palace has died mysteriously in jail.

General Gennady Lopyrev, 69, suddenly became ill on Monday – gasping for breath – and was told by doctors he had previously undiagnosed leukaemia.

There are now suspicions he was poisoned just as he became eligible for parole.

The general was jailed for ten years in 2017 by a military court accused of bribe-taking and illegal possession of ammunition – charges he always denied.

Serving in the Federal Protection Service [FSO], he personally oversaw the construction of Putin’s gargantuan clifftop Gelendzhik Palace, a private residence allegedly built with state cash.

He was also responsible for the dictator’s official residence Bocharov Ruchei in Sochi.

Up to his jailing he had been one of Putin’s closest security aides, and was seen with the Russian president and then British premier Tony Blair in Moscow in 2002.

It comes as another Russian general, who led the invasion of Ukraine until he was purged by Putin, also met a suspiciously sudden end this week.

General Gennady Lopyrev, 69, suddenly became ill on Monday - gasping for breath - and was told by doctors he had previously undiagnosed leukaemia.

General Gennady Lopyrev, 69, suddenly became ill on Monday – gasping for breath – and was told by doctors he had previously undiagnosed leukaemia.

General Gennady Lopyrev, marked, is seen during Tony and Cherie Blair's visit to Russia

General Gennady Lopyrev, marked, is seen during Tony and Cherie Blair’s visit to Russia

Aerial view of Vladimir Putin's alleged palace in Gelendzhik, south of Russia

Aerial view of Vladimir Putin’s alleged palace in Gelendzhik, south of Russia

Having been healthy on Sunday when he spoke to his son Alexander, Gen Lopyrev suddenly became ill on Monday complaining of speaking and breathing difficulties, reported Telegram channel VChK-OGPU.

‘He could not breathe and had a hoarse voice,’ said the channel likening the symptoms to those of Putin foe Alexei Navalny who was poisoned with nerve agent Novichok.

Lopyrev was taken on Monday from penal colony number 3 in Ryazan region to two hospitals.

He told his son Alexander by phone: ‘I was taken to Skopin [hospital] first, and they found nothing conclusive.

‘Now they brought me to Ryazan regional hospital, and said I had leukaemia.’

The son said: ‘But isn’t leukaemia a cancer… Surely it couldn’t catch you in just two days?’

Speaking to media, Alexander said: ‘I also spoke to the chief of their medical unit, who said his heart check returned normal, and lungs were clear.

‘It is hard to say what exactly happened. We were getting ready to apply for his parole, because it was time [to apply]… And now this call [to say he had died].

‘It’s all very strange, and way too fast.’

His father was extremely fit and routinely practised gymnastics while in the penal colony, Alexander claimed. 

‘Everything was fine on Sunday,’ he said. ‘We had a chat via a payphone, there wasn’t a single complaint about his health.

‘His voice was energetic, he spoke about his usual sports like gymnastics and stretching. Every day he walked 15km [9 miles].

‘On Monday he called with his voice suddenly sounding hoarse. By evening on Monday… he called from [hospital in] Ryazan, saying he felt really unwell…he said he struggled to breathe.’

Viktor Boborykin, chairman of the Public Monitoring Commission for the region, said there was ‘nothing criminal’ in his death.

Navalny had earlier identified Gen Lopyrev as being responsible for Gelendzhik and knowing all the secrets of its funding.

Putin’s Black Sea palace includes a pole-dancing hookah boudoir, casino, and ‘aqua disco’.

It has a 16-storey underground complex which has been compared with the lair of a James Bond villain.

A mining engineer who worked on the construction it had indeed been built for the president and ‘there is a whole anthill in the rock under the house’ including a nuclear shelter.

The subterranean maze includes a cliff face loggia overlooking the sea and a vast wine cellar.

The death of Gen Lopyrev followed that of Col-Gen Gennady Zhidko, 58.

Zhidko briefly led the invasion of Ukraine as commander of the Southern Grouping of Forces before giving way to General Sergei ‘Armageddon’ Surovikin in October.

Gennady Zhidko, Hero of Russia and 2022 Commander of Eastern Military District died at 58

Gennady Zhidko, Hero of Russia and 2022 Commander of Eastern Military District died at 58

Vladimir Putin congratulates Major General Gennady Zhidko after awarding him the title of the Hero of the Russian Federation at the State Kremlin Palace December 28, 2017

Vladimir Putin congratulates Major General Gennady Zhidko after awarding him the title of the Hero of the Russian Federation at the State Kremlin Palace December 28, 2017

The 58-year-old also served as the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria in 2016, and in 2018 was appointed Commander of the Eastern Military District.

The high-ranking official – who was awarded the highest honorary title, the Hero of Russia, for his service in 2017 – later became deputy minister of defence in 2021.

Zhidko was ousted from his role in Ukraine in October 2022 – as commander of Putin’s ‘special military operation’ – after the failure to grab the city of Kharkiv.

He had been seen as in charge since April after taking over from ousted General Alexander Dvornikov, aka the ‘Butcher of Syria’.

The role led to Western sanctions against Zhidko.

Surovikin, who replaced him, was later demoted from the role by chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov.

Surovikin remained his deputy but is believed to have been detained in June amid suspicion he knew of plans to stage a coup against Putin’s regime by Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Little had been seen of Zhidko in recent months.

His death was confirmed by the loyalist governor of Khabarovsk region Mikhail Degtyarev, who expressed his condolences, but there was no official announcement.

The reports did not say where Zhidko died. He was seen as having one of the best military brains in Russia.

The deaths of Generals Lopyrev and Zhidko are just the latest in a long line of suspicious fatalities among the upper echelons of Russia’s military and business elite in recent months.

Major General Vladimir Makarov, 67, was in charge of ‘combating extremism’ in Russia and was found shot dead in February.

He reportedly led the hunting down and suppression of opponents of the Russian president, as well as journalists deemed hostile to the Kremlin.

Makarov also took action against young people who protested against Putin.

Putin issued a decree to fire him in January, though his reasons for doing so remain unclear.

Major General Vladimir Makarov, 67, was in charge of 'combatting extremism' in Russia and was found shot dead in February. Police has said he died by suicide

Major General Vladimir Makarov, 67, was in charge of ‘combatting extremism’ in Russia and was found shot dead in February. Police has said he died by suicide

Makarov’s wife Valentina was in a country house with her husband in Golikovo village near Moscow at 7am when she heard a gunshot, local reports said.

Some reports said a Berkut-2M hunting rifle was found nearby. Other accounts said a pistol was discovered.

His wife summoned a family member and called an ambulance but paramedics could not save Makarov, said reports, and he was pronounced dead.

The dead general’s family were being interrogated by the Russian Investigative Committee, reported Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow-based daily newspaper.

The publication said that firearms were kept inside the house. 

Relatives said he ‘did not know what to do’ after Putin axed him.

VChK-OGPU Telegram channel cited a source saying Makarov had been in ‘deep depression’ following his ousting.

He had been deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Extremism, which was also responsible for countering terrorism.

Vladimir Makarov's wife Valentina was in a country house with her husband in Golikovo village near Moscow at 7am when she heard a gunshot, local reports said

Vladimir Makarov’s wife Valentina was in a country house with her husband in Golikovo village near Moscow at 7am when she heard a gunshot, local reports said

From December 24 to 26, there was a string of four particularly mysterious deaths. 

On December 26, Pavel Antonov – the richest deputy of the Russian Duma (parliament) and a Putin critic – died in India falling out of a hotel window.

His companion Vladimir Bidenov was found dead in the same hotel four days earlier.

Aleksey Maslov, 69, the former chief of Russian Ground Forces, died in hospital on 25 December while Aleksandr Buzakov – head of Russia’s ‘admiralty shipyards’ for a decade – died on December 24.

Last July, retired Major General of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation Yevgeny Lobachev, 76, was found dead in Moscow. His death was also ruled as suicide.

Other recent deaths have included the editor of a popular Russian propaganda magazine, the vice-president of Gazprombank and a senior Gazprom official.

One man burned alive after falling asleep with a lit cigarette in Moscow, another fell from a balcony, and another fell down a flight of stairs.

Suspicious deaths of notable Russians have not been confined to Russia’s borders, either. In April, Sergey Protosenya – Former Deputy Chairman of Novatek – was found hanged from a handrail. His wife and daughter were found killed with stab wounds.

Businessman Mikhail Watford was found dead at his home in Surrey, England, while another – Vladimir Bidenov – died in France after hitting his head on a railing.



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