All versions of Russian ruling party official Yuri Kotler’s death
The suicide of prominent politician and businessman Yuri Kotler has hit the headlines last week. Some people believe that he has laid hands on himself because of bankruptcy and career failures. Others suggest conspiracy theories, imply that it was not a suicide, and remind that Kotler was employed with a structure controlled by brothers Magomedov. Still others refer to his psychological problems originating from the childhood... But was his suicide note interpreted correctly?
On May 16, 2018, Yuri Kotler, ex-member of the Supreme Council of Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party and ex-Vice President of VTB Bank, was found dead in an apartment in the building located at 43 Bolshaya Nikitskaya street, Moscow. His wife Natalia, who currently resides in London (earlier she used to live in France), was the one who has spread the alarm. She could not get the husband on the phone for three days and asked Kotler's personal driver to check all the possible locations. The driver addressed the police for assistance. Policemen had to use an angle grinder to open the door of a rented apartment where the body of once-influential politician and businessman was found.
Yuri Kotler rented an apartment in this building
Yuri Kotler’s car
Kotler was dead for two days already. On May 13, he has celebrated his 50th anniversary. The man did not clean-up the mess after the jolly feast. Nor did he sort out bags with expensive gifts left in the corridor. The investigation believes that on May 14, next day after the party, he sat on the bed, clenched a Winchester Super X3 sports shotgun with his feet and blown out his head. A suicide note with a jolly emoticon in the end was found near the body. Neither markings of foul play nor traces of fight were discovered. Therefore, the police logically concluded that Kotler has taken his own life.
Forensic expert works on the balcony of the apartment rented by Yuri Kotler
Although the situation was pretty clear, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has launched a pre-investigation probe. Aleksander Drymanov, Head of the Main Investigations Directorate in the City of Moscow of the ICR, has taken it under personal control. The media have immediately offered several versions explaining the suicide of Kotler.
Yuri Kotler was born on May 13, 1968 in Moscow. In 1990, graduated from the International Department of the Faculty of Journalism of the Moscow State University. Concurrently studied at Karl Marx Leipzig University with a major in Foreign Affairs. Since 1990, was an economic columnist for RIA Novosti news agency, journalist for The New York Times, and Editor-in-Chief of Financial and Business News – Russian Edition weekly magazine. In 1993, became a Deputy Director for Corporate Management of Bozell SMG company and Director for Corporate Management and Shareholders’ Rights of Burson Marsteller PR company. In 1994, was appointed the Press Secretary of the Federal Administration for Insolvency and Bankruptcy Cases of the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Goskomimushchestvo). Since 1995, was the Press Secretary of the Federal Stock Market Commission. In 1997, became the Director for Public Liaison and Advisor to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Interros-Soglasie Closed Joint Stock Company, Interros-Dostoinstvo Non-Governmental Pension Fund, and Interroslizing Closed Joint Stock Company amalgamated into Interros-Finkom Holding. Since 1999, was in charge of the Press Service of the Center for Strategic Research and an Advisor to its Chairman during the first election campaign of Vladimir Putin. In 2000, became a Senior Consultant at Ward Howell. In 2003, was appointed the Head of the Public Relations Department of MENATEP Group; for two years was a member of the Board of Directors of MIEL Real Estate Company; and handled staff recruitment at Ward Howell International staffing agency. In 2007–2008, supervised the liaison with major institutional and private clients at Troika Dialog. In 2013–2015, was the Senior Vice President and Advisor to the President of VTB Bank. Then was a Deputy General Director and Head of the Moscow Representation Office of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port Public Joint Stock Company. Concurrently was in charge of the Institute of Modern Leadership of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. In 2000, joined Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party; up until 2013, was in charge of a partisan project entitled "Personnel reserve – the professional team of the country"; up until 2018, was a member of the Supreme Party Council and Advisor to the Chairman of Edinaya Rossia. In February 2018, became a member of the Supreme Expert Council Bureau of Edinaya Rossia – i.e. one of the 30 experts selected by the Presidium of the Party General Council to oversee its rebranding.
End of career and financial collapse
The majority of experts believe that financial issues were the main reason behind the suicide of Kotler. In fact, in the last six month, the affairs of once-successful businessman and politician were all downhill. In January, he was dismissed from the post of the Deputy General Director and Head of the Moscow Representation Office of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port Public Joint Stock Company for frequent absences from work without good reason.
According to Igor Demin, Advisor to the President of Rosneft, the decision to terminate Kotler was made by new General Director Sergei Kireev appointed to this post in late December 2017. By the time of termination, Kotler had more than 30 days of unjustified absence. Therefore, he was dismissed without the ‘golden parachute’ normally provided to laid off employees.
Kotler believed that his dismissal was illegal and filed a lawsuit in late April. According to Maria Mikhailova, Press Secretary of the Savelovsky District Court of Moscow, “the statement of claim included requirements to recover the unpaid salary and a monetary compensation for delays with salary payments”. However, Doctor of Economics Nikita Krichevsky told that the claims of Kotler were quite different: “He had sued Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port not for the unpaid salary (100% prospects of success) – but for the ‘golden parachute’ he needed to pay out the mortgage. And he knew that he had no chance to success”. The plaintiff had estimated the amount owed to him by the company at 5 million rubles ($81.6 thousand), including the salary accrued since the end of January and a compensation for illegal termination.
On May 14 – the day of Kotler’s death – the judge has held the first conversation in relation to the lawsuit. However, the plaintiff did not attend it and sent instead a representative. The first court hearing was expected to be held in late June.
In late March, Kotler attempted to improve his financial situation by becoming a member of the Board of Directors of Home Money Microfinancing Company. But this attempt failed: in April, the organization had a technical default in the amount of 840.2 million rubles ($13.7 million) due to “lack of monetary funds in the required amount”.
On May 5, the Moscow Arbitration Court has declared Kotler insolvent. The lawsuit was filed by VTB Bank where Kotler used to be a Vice President. Two years ago, when his financial situation was good, Kotler has taken out a mortgage in VTB Bank to purchase an apartment at 32 – build. 4, 2/14 Bryusov lane, Moscow. The cost of the residence was 80 million rubles ($1.3 million). The mortgagor failed to pay out his loan. He was owing VTB Bank 48.7 million rubles ($795 thousand) plus 1.6 million rubles ($26.1 thousand) in fines and penalties. The court has determined that the total value of Kotler’s assets was lower than his indebtedness – therefore, he was declared insolvent. Kotler hasn’t attended the court session imposing limitations on his right to administer his assets. The examination of the personal bankruptcy case was scheduled on November 1, 2018. Kotler could file the lawsuit against Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy – but apparently, he was well aware that his claim had no chance to success.
Only his connections in the circles of power could save Kotler from financial collapse. Initially, his career in Edinaya Rossia Party was successful – but at the beginning of the year, he was excluded from the Supreme Party Council. The recent cabinet reshuffles have adversely affected Mikhail Abyzov and his Open Government Kotler was actively involved with. Political expert Pavel Salin, Director of the Center for Politological Studies of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, explains his suicide as follows: "Most likely, this is a story of a psychological break up of a man – social climber in the finest sense of this word – who has ended in a fiasco in a number of spheres of his activity, both from the career perspective and from the financial point of view. Plus the age of 50 – time to strike the balance. All these factors have affected him adversely. It was a man eager to climb up the ladder. The loss of work and bankruptcy have broken him".
On the other hand, in February 2018, Kotler became a member of the Supreme Expert Council Bureau of Edinaya Rossia. Political expert Nikita Isaev told journalists the following: “My friend recently met him in the airport. Kotler told that he was about to return to the halls of power and get involved in the re-tuning of the national government. He said that he has got an opportunity to return”. Many people say that Kotler was very enthusiastic recently, expected a new advancement in his political career, and planned to become the coordinator of an expert council of the Russian government. Therefore, the version explaining his suicide by the financial and career failures does not seem 100% convincing.
Some media outlets supposed that brothers Magomedov are responsible for the death of Kotler. Since 2016 and until his dismissal in January 2018, the experienced top manager was a Deputy General Director and Head of the Moscow Representation Office of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port. Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port is one of the largest transportation hubs of Russia and third most busy port in Europe. 50.1% of shares of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port belong to Cyprus-based Novoport Holding Ltd., which, in turn, belongs in equal shares to Summa Group of Ziyavudin and Magomed Magomedov and Transneft whose President is Nikolai Tokarev. The Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushestvo) owns 20% of the port, while the rest of shares belong to minor stakeholders or are available on the open market.
On March 31, brothers Magomedov and Artur Maksidov, head of a company subsidiary to Summa Group, were arrested and charged with creation of a criminal community, several swindling episodes, and misappropriation of monetary funds. In addition, they are suspected of seven swindling episodes totaling 2.5 billion rubles ($40.8 million) – the investigation believes that companies controlled by Summa Group had inflated their costs and overcharged prices on goods and services. Members of the organized criminal group are facing up to 20 years behind bars.
Just before the arrest of brothers Magomedov, Transneft was about to purchase from Summa Group its share in Novoport Holding Ltd. to acquire a controlling block of shares in Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port. However, the deal was put on hold after the arrest of Ziyavudin and Magomed Magomedov.
According to friends of Kotler, he was questioned as a witness in the framework of the case against brothers Magomedov. The former Head of the Moscow Representation Office could be involved into the sale of the port shares. “In the last few weeks, Yuri was very depressed by something and a little bit scared. Although Yuri has resigned from the Moscow Representation Office of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port in the end of 2017, the investigation had questions to him in the framework of the criminal case against Ziyavudin and Magomed Magomedov,” – one of his acquaintances told. Once-upbeat fan of parties and social circuits was reportedly very stressed after meetings with law enforcement officers.
However, defense attorneys for brothers Magomedov claim that the case materials provided to them had no references to Kotler. Therefore, the version stating that the businessman and politician with extensive connections in the circles of power has taken his own life to avoid being prosecuted together with brothers Magomedov is pretty doubtful as well. Could they stage his ‘suicide’ to eliminate an unnecessary witness? No one can answer this question.
It is necessary to keep in mind that prior to joining Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port, Kotler was employed with VTB Bank. He is not the first top manager of this bank found dead with gunshot wounds. A few years ago, Aleksander Furin, a senior specialist at Vneshtorgbank, has blown out his head, while top manager Oleg Zhukovsky was found tied on the bottom of a swimming pool – and his death was also ruled a suicide.
In his suicide note found on the table, Kotler wrote: “Kaban (Boar), you are a true friend – a strange and funny one, but real. But I am not. And I love my family desperately, and I have terribly failed them. And I love the mother; if she had told me, once in a lifetime, that she loves me, everything would be different. Be strong!”
All journalists decided that Kotler addresses some friend nicknamed Kaban (Boar) and blames his mother, who hadn’t allegedly given him enough love during the childhood, for his death. Psychologists concluded that the self-murderer had a narcissistic personality. Hundreds of comments were posted on the Internet expressing surprise at the infantilism of the 50-year-old member of Edinaya Rossia Party and successful businessman. How could he live to that age and not solve issues with his mother?.. Sounds weird. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a Jewish family with a mother disliking her son so much that she had never told him about her love...
But everything falls into place if we assume that Kotler addresses not a friend – but his stepson Ivan and calls “mother” his wife Natalia Kretova (who is Ivan’s mother indeed). In many families, fathers call their wives “mother” when speaking with their children.
To understand why this version seems logical, it is necessary to go back in the history of Kotler’s marriage.
Natalia Kretova, wife of the successful businessman and politician, used to be a supermodel. In 1990, she met Sergei Katin, a cofounder of Dyuna (Dune) band and author of Strana Limonia (Lemon Country) hit song, at Shlyager (Chartbuster) music festival in St. Petersburg. The popular artist was older than Natalia by 12 years, married, and had a daughter – future t.A.T.u. singer Lena Katina. However, this couldn’t prevent a steamy love affair – in 1992, Kretova and Katin got married and relocated to Paris. Asya Katina, mother of Sergei Katin and grandmother of Lena Katina, told this story to journalists.
Yuri Kotler with wife Natalia Kretova
In 1994, Kretova gave birth to son Ivan – but this could not save their marriage. In 1996, Katin and Kretova have divorced and Katin returned to Russia. "He explained to me that he feels himself a second class human while being abroad,” – Asya Katina told.
Natalia Kretova decided to stay in Paris with her little son. She has married for the second time in December 2003, when Ivan was 9 years old. 35-year-old Yuri Kotler was a very promising bachelor at that time: a member of the Board of Directors of MIEL Real Estate Company and supervisor of a partisan project entitled "Personnel reserve – the professional team of the country". Kotler became a ‘new father' for Ivan and, apparently, managed to strike up a friendship with the stepson – who was 24 at the time of his stepfather's suicide.
The common child of Natalia and Yuri was born only 12 years after their wedding – in August 2015. Kotler was at the pinnacle of his career in that period: a member of the Board of Directors of VTB Bank and Supreme Council of Edinaya Rossia Party. Happy mother Natalia Kretova has shared a photo of her newborn son Vladimir on social networks. She was unwilling to return to Russia and continued raising her children in London. However, this hasn’t affected adversely their marriage: in December 2017, Natalia posted a picture of herself with Kotler with the following comment: “15 years with the best man in the world”. The couple looks happy on the photo.
However, six months later, Kotler, who, according to his friends, had never abused alcohol, surprisingly began drinking heavily. Perhaps he has received, shortly before the suicide, some bad news about his family? On May 10, a few days before his death, Kotler was spotted at the Expert Council Bureau of Edinaya Rossia. “He was vigorous and cheerful; exchanged whispers and giggled with neighbors. He did not look like a person having serious problems”.
It is unlikely that Kotler has made the fatal shot just because of his family issues. However, these could become ‘the last straw’ for him. In his last note, the businessman and politician tells the stepson that if his mother had told him, once in a lifetime, of her love, “everything would be different”.