Former Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, who was found dead in a Washington hotel room last year, died of blunt force injuries to the head, authorities said on Thursday.
Lesin who once headed state-controlled media giant Gazprom-Media, also had blunt force injuries to the neck, torso, arms and legs, the U.S. capital’s chief medical examiner and the Metropolitan Police Department said in a brief statement.
The incident was under investigation, the statement said.
Local and Russian media have reported that Lesin was found dead inside a hotel room in November in Washington's Dupont Circle neighbourhood, which is home to embassies and think tanks.
Russia's RT television quoted family members at the time as saying he had died of a heart attack.
ABC News has said Lesin, who was Russia's minister of press from 1999 to 2004 under President Vladimir Putin, had been accused of censoring Russia's independent media. He became head of Gazprom-Media Holding in 2013 but resigned the following year.
Nicknamed the 'Bulldozer', Lesin was one of the key props of the Putin presidency, personally masterminding a wide-ranging media crackdown which has left the vast majority of Russian TV stations and newspapers obedient to the Kremlin.
He also set up Russia Today, now RT, seen by critics as a 'propaganda' channel aimed at the West.
Mere weeks before his death was announced, he fathered a child with glamorous model and flight attendant Victoria Rakhimbayeva.
She is believed to be aged 29, with whom he had enjoyed a close relationship since at least mid-2014, after the break-up of his marriage.
Early last year, he suddenly quit the latest of several high profile positions, as head of Gazprom Media, a major state owned media conglomerate.
There are unsubstantiated claims in Moscow that when he died he was in debt to billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, one of Putin's closest big business friends.
‘He owed huge amount of money to Kovalchuk, which he supposedly didn't intend to pay back,' an unnamed source told The Moscow Times.
Lesin was found dead at 11:30am on November 6 while staying on an upper floor at the $240-a-night Dupont Circle Hotel, seen as modest for his multimillionaire lifestyle.
It is unclear if Rakhimbayeva was in the US with him at the time.
Yet some 16 months earlier, Senator Roger Wicker had called for a Justice Department probe into whether Lesin was engaged in money laundering.
The status of any subsequent FBI investigation is unclear, but - rightly or wrongly - in Russia it was widely believed that a probe was indeed under way.
Many elite Russians with links to the Putin regime are currently giving the US, and other parts of the West, a wide berth amid fears of arrest, hence the surprise and bewilderment at him being in Washington.
But there are also suggestions that Lesin had taken a decision to leave Russia for good before his untimely death in America.
Former Russian vice premier Alfred Kokh openly asked this week whether Lesin could have been murdered - like a new Alexander Litvinenko, a Putin foe poisoned by radioactive polonium poured into his tea in London nine years ago.
Kokh spoke amid fears in Moscow that he was ready to trade his inside knowledge of the Putin court for an end to any American investigation into the propriety of his wealth.
Questioning why Putin's former media manipulator was in the US capital, Kokh asked in an online posting: 'What's so interesting about Washington? I've been there quite a few times.
'And I'd answer - nothing. At all. It's a boring city without a touch of spice.
‘For some reason he came to Washington where he suddenly died but not from not of something he had been suffering from.'
Echoing Kokh, he suggested Lesin 'had something to swap his death for' - adding: 'There was a lot to swap it for.'
Moscow is prone to conspiracy theories when prominent people die before their time, but while Lesin had a number of medical issues, they were not seen as life-threatening and there was genuine shock among his friends and those who crossed paths with him.
'Lesin died. It’s impossible to believe this,’ tweeted Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT.