The head of a major Russian shipyard that has worked on vessels in the country’s naval fleet died suddenly, sparking speculation online based on other similar deaths of prominent Russians this year.
Alexander Buzakov, the 66-year-old Director General of the Admiralty Shipyards for the United Shipbuilding Company, died on Saturday. No cause of death has yet been reported for the wealthy businessman, with a report from the Russian state-run news agency TASS saying that his passing was “untimely” and tragic.
“The United Shipbuilding Corporation, the Admiralty Shipyards, and the entire national shipbuilding industry have suffered an irreparable loss, as Alexander Sergeevich Buzakov, Director General of the Admiralty Shipyards, passed away at the age of 66,” United Shipbuilding wrote in a statement. “He shouldered responsibility for the most complex orders and dealt well with each of them with dignity, thus earning a great reputation both in the industry and with the county’s leadership.”
Buzakov’s company is known for specializing in non-nuclear submarines. According to its official statement, he had dedicated his life’s work to bolstering the Russian naval fleet, a commitment that lasted right up to his passing. Just a day prior to his death, Buzakov attended a float-out ceremony for his company’s latest vessel, a new submarine dubbed Velikie Luki. He had been a veteran of the business, with over 40 years of experience and 11 years at the helm of Admiralty Shipyards.
The sudden nature of Buzakov’s passing and his prominent status in the country’s business realm has led to some speculation online due to the recent trend of sudden and mysterious deaths among Russian elites within the last year. Since January, 11 so-called Russian “oligarchs” have died under suspicious circumstances, often officially explained as apparent suicides or accidents.
As noted in a report by CNN, at least four of the deaths, as of early September, befell businessmen connected to Gazprom, a major state-owned Russian energy company. Gazprom is notable among Russian companies, having released statements decrying Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine earlier in the year and calling for empathy for the war’s victims. This has led to widespread speculation that these deaths have been state-ordered hits targeting major figures for not being sufficiently loyal to Putin.
The families of a handful of these prominent victims were also found dead around the same time. The official stories behind these incidents were that the oligarchs had killed their family members before taking their own lives.
Newsweek reached out to foreign defense experts for comment.