Russian authorities are investigating the suspicious prison death of a former top space agency official charged with embezzlement.
Vladimir Evdokimov, a former top director at Russia’s national space agency Roscosmos, was found dead with stab wounds to the heart and neck in the bathroom of his prison cell last week.
Russian media reports that one of the inmates found Evdokimov covered in blood in the cell’s toilet, the door of which was locked from the inside.
Evdokimov was moved from a cell with 6 other prisoners to one with 11 and no CCTV surveillance in February.
His cellmates have since been separated into solitary cells for the length of the investigation.
“The prisoners were separated into other cells so that they could not have the opportunity to talk amongst each other,” Ivan Melnikov, a member of Russia’s Central Control Commission told RBC TV.
Russia’s Investigative Committee is currently questioning the prisoners who were in Evdokimov’s cell.
Evdokimov was arrested in December on charges of embezzling 200 million rubles ($US3.1 million) from the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG aerospace company. He has held various high positions at nuclear and technology agencies since the Soviet period.
On March 18, Roscosmos confirmed Evdokimov’s death on Twitter.
“All our thoughts today are with the family and kids of Vladimir,” General Director Igor Komarov said in a statement. “We will, without a doubt, insist on clarity surrounding his death and an in-depth investigation of the incident.”
The Russian space agency has previously been rocked by scandal regarding corruption and financial mismanagement. An anonymous source told Interfax that “Evdokimov’s foes feared he could tell their names to the investigation and uncover their criminal schemes,” according to International Business Times.
Russian investigative officials announced on Monday that Evdokimov’s body displayed signs of fighting back an attacker. It was highly unlikely that Evdokimov’s death was a suicide, head of Russian human rights organisation Eva Merkacheva told to RIA Novosti.
“Quite the opposite, he was determined to win the trial and was making plans,” said Merkacheva. “And then he dies in a prison cell, which is strange.”
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