Counter-terrorism police are investigating the death of a Russian exile who was friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who famously fell out with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Nikolai Glushkov, who received political asylum in the UK, was found dead at his London home on Monday by friends and family. He was 68.
On Tuesday the Met Police issued a statement, saying: “At this stage the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation as a precaution because of associations that the man is believed to have had.
It added that there was “no evidence to suggest a link to the incident in Salisbury”.
One of Glushkov’s friends, newspaper editor Damian Kudryavtsev, confirmed the news on Facebook, and told HuffPost UK that nothing was known about the cause of death.
Kudryavtsev added about Glushkov: “He was very good friend, lonely person, bright manager. Russian by the best meaning of the word.”
The Met did not name Glushkov, but confirmed they were investigating the death of a man in his 60s in the Kingston borough, which was being treated as unexplained.
The statement confirmed that police were called by the London Ambulance Service at 10:46 on Monday, to reports of a man found deceased at a residential address in Clarence Avenue, New Malden.
The death comes nine days after former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury after being poisoned by a rare nerve agent.
The UK government has said it is “highly likely” Russia is behind the attack, and Russian president Vladimir Putin has been given until midnight to give the UK government an account of what happened.
Glushkov’s death has done nothing to play down fears amid a highly charged political climate with commentators quickly linking it to Salisbury.
The Met said officers believe they know who the man is, but he is yet to be formally identified. His family has been informed and a post-mortem examination will be held in due course.
“The death is currently being treated as an unexplained. If there is a change in the status of the investigation, an update will be provided,” the Met said.
The Guardian reported that Glushkov was close friends with Boris Berezovsky who fled to the UK in 1999 after falling out with the Russian president.
In the 1990s, Glushkov worked for the state airline, Aeroflot, along with Berezovsky’s LogoVaz car company.
In 2011, Glushkov gave evidence at the court case brought by Berezovsky against his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, who remained on good terms with the Kremlin, the Guardian reported.
Berezovsky was found dead in March 2013 at his ex-wife’s home in Berkshire. His death was not treated as suspicious, but his friends were not convinced and a coroner later recorded an open verdict.
Speaking to the Guardian at the time, Glushkov said he was extremely sceptical that Berezovsky took his own life, claiming that he was “killed”.
Glushkov left Russia after a Moscow court sentenced him to a two-year suspended sentence for fraud in 2006.
In 2017, during a trial in absentia in Russia, Glushkov was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing $123m from Aeroflot.
Glushkov is believed to have two grown up children, Natasha and Dima, and an ex-wife who lives in Moscow. Natasha is believed to live in the UK.
A neighbour who did not want to be named said she was in “shock” over Glushkov’s death: “This nice neighbour, he was a lovely fellow.”
She described her neighbour as well educated and said he had lived in the house for several years.
“His daughter used to call, she was in her 20s I think,” she added.
“He told me she had gone to a Swiss finishing school, he said he was trying to force her to learn Russian.
“He also had a son but he lived in Moscow I think.”
The neighbour added: “His birthday was Christmas Eve and we popped in for a glass of wine, he used to have a lot of people over.
“It was a Russian house, all brown furniture.
“He told me he was from Georgia and always said how beautiful it was.”
She continued: “He never mentioned his work – he was intelligent and very well-mannered. He had very good English.
“He was very generous and friendly.
“At Christmas he gave us beautiful champagne.”
She said he had an operation a few months ago on one of his legs for arthritis.
“He didn’t go out much because of his illnesses, he had something wrong with his heart and had a few strokes,” she added.
Ako Mohammed, of Allan Barbers, said the man was a regular customer.
“He used to come in every month or two, he was last in two or three weeks ago,” he said.
“He was a very nice guy, he asked me how business was going.
“He had an operation on his leg, he was on crutches.”