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Former Russian press minister Mikhail Lesin dies in Washington

Former Russian press minister Mikhail Lesin has been found dead in an upscale Washington hotel room. He is credited with creating the news network Russia Today, backed by the Russian government.

The Russian Embassy in Washington has confirmed the death of Mikhail Lesin. The body of the Russian media executive was found on Thursday by local police in the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington.

Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, served as Russia's Minister of Press, Television and Radio from 1999 to 2004. From 2004 to 2009, he served as presidential media adviser. He became head of the state-controlled media giant Gazprom-Media Holding in 2013, but resigned early in 2015, citing family reasons.

Russia's news network Russia Today (RT) said on its website that the 57-year-old media executive died of a heart attack. RT credited Lesin with "inspiring the creation" of the agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed "the enormous contribution made by Mikhail Lesin to the formation of modern Russian media," Russian news agency Tass reported.

Money laundering, corruption

Last year, Republican Senator Robert Wicker of Mississippi called for a probe of Lesin on suspicion of money laundering and corruption, according to ABC News. Lesin allegedly amassed millions of dollars in assets in Europe and the United States while working for the government. This included $28 million (25.8 million euros) in real estate in Los Angeles, the US network ABC reported.

"That a Russian public servant could have amassed the considerable funds required to acquire and maintain these assets in Europe and the United States raises serious questions," Wicker wrote, according to ABC.

das/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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