International spotlight after dead tourist in Odisha found to be Russian tycoon and Putin critic
Sixty-five-year-old Pavel Antov, who allegedly fell from his hotel terrace on December 24 evening, was a business tycoon and member of the Vladimir legislative assembly.
BHUBANESWAR/ NEW DELHI: What was thought of as unfortunate deaths of two Russian tourists at a hotel in the non-descript Rayagada district of Odisha till now has come under international spotlight after one of them turned out to be a billionaire and powerful lawmaker from the country.
Sixty-five-year-old Pavel Antov, who allegedly fell from his hotel terrace on December 24 evening, was a business tycoon and member of the Vladimir legislative assembly. With his being a Putin critic over the Ukraine invasion, the international glare was immediate and the circumstances around the back-to-back deaths prompted the Odisha government to order a Crime Branch investigation.
Two days before Antov’s death, his friend Vladimir Bydanov died of cardiac arrest in the same hotel.
Sources in Odisha Police told The New Indian Express that post mortem report of Antov indicated ‘accidental’ death. His 61-year-old friend Bydanov had succumbed to cardiac arrest due to excessive consumption of intoxicants on December 22, they said.
Bodies of both Antov and Bydanov had to be cremated as per the wish of the family members who had sent notary certificates according power of attorney to the local police. Only the ashes and belongings were being sent back home.
Antov, whose company Vladimir Standart group’s estimated earning stood at 9.97 billion rubles translating approximately to $157 million, was travelling in Odisha with Bydanov and another Russian couple Mikhail Turov and Natalia Panasenko to usher in his 66th birthday. Their travel agent from Delhi, Jitendra Singh was also accompanying the group.
The Russian group first visited Daringibadi, a small hill-station in Kandhamal district before proceeding to Rayagada town where they checked into Hotel Sai International on December 21. The next day, Bydanov died. Police investigation revealed that remnants of smashed bottles were found from his room. “He appeared to have been upset with something and had consumed alcohol,” sources added.
All through December 24, Antov was with police and the Russian couple, and attended Bydanov’s cremation. In the evening, he returned to the room on the second floor of the hotel. A hotel staff had seen him going to the terrace on the third flood around 6 pm. “CCTV footage examined by the police also corroborates that he went to the terrace all by himself,” sources added.
Though how he fell off the terrace has not been ascertained yet, Antov was believed to distraught with his friend’s death. He was rushed to Rayagada district headquarters hospital where he was declared dead. His post mortem report pointed at rupture of left side of lungs, liver and spleen leading to haemorrhage, shock and death. Bydanov’s post mortem report found 100 ml liquid fluid in the stomach with a ‘peculiar smell like opium/ganja i.e. cannabis.” Viscera of both the friends have been sent for further test.
The Russian group was believed to have been travelling to this part of Odisha for tribal tourism. Districts such as Kandhamal, Rayagada and Koraput are home to primitive tribal groups which attract international tourists. Also, the region is known for its cannabis.
Director General of Police Sunil Kumar Bansal said a formal investigation by Crime Branch has been ordered. “The Russian consulate at Kolkata is in contact with us,” he told this paper.
Meanwhile, the Russian couple - Mikhail and Natalia - along with travel agent Singh had started for Kolkata by road from Rayagada. However, a Crime Branch team intercepted them at Bhubaneswar so that they could be questioned about the case on Tuesday evening.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) did not comment on the issue while sources in the Russian Embassy termed it deaths by accident in both cases.
“The consulate general of Russia in Kolkata is overseeing the developments of this case and as of now, the police find no evidence of any foul play,” sources added.
Who is Pavel Antov
* Meat and sausage tycoon Pavel Genrikhovich Antov was a member of the Vladimir
Legislative Assembly. He represented the United Russia faction and headed
several committees on agrarian policy, environmental management and ecology.
* Born in Moscow Region’s Voskresensk, he was named the 26th richest Russian by the
Forbes magazine in 2019, his earnings estimated at 9.97 billion rubles
which translates to approximately $157 million.
* A graduate of St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy, Antov founded the Vladimir
Standart group of companies in 2000. His company’s revenue in 2019 pegged
at 11.5 billion rubles with a net profit of 553 million rubles.
* He had reportedly criticised the Russian missile attack on Ukraine earlier this
year but later denied it as a misunderstanding.