It has come to the attention of many people that Russian oligarchs and businessmen have an alarming rate of falling out of windows. The likelihood of this happening is highly correlated to their having expressed any criticism of Putin’s war on Ukraine. Let’s face it: Death is the ultimate form of censorship.

I started collecting stories of this phenomenon and then discovered that The Hill had gathered some or most or all of them.

In a story, called “Murder, Putin Wrote,” Mark Toth and Jonathan Sweet told the strange tale as of a month ago (it may need updating in the event other oligarchs have accidentally defenestrated):

Russian oligarchs continue to fall out of windows around the world at what seems to be a precipitously increasing rate. The latest, Pavel Antonov, reputedly the richest deputy in Russia’s State Duma, fell to his death on Boxing Day in Rayagada, India. Alexey Idamkin, Moscow’s Consul General in Calcutta, essentially told TASS, “Nothing to see here.” Two days earlier, the Russian sausage-maker magnate turned politician’s traveling companion, Vladimir Budanov, suddenly died of a “heart attack” while celebrating Antonov’s birthday.

Perhaps it was a coincidence. Then again, likely not. In all likelihood, the sausage-maker, who in June had criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, simply knew too much about how Putin’s sausage was being made and, more to the point, just how corrupt Putin’s Kremlin has become since he assumed the Russian prime minister’s office in August 1999.

In the West, notably, there is a widespread misunderstanding of the oligarchs’ position and standing in Putin’s pyramid of power in Moscow. They are not, as a group, self-made commercial or industrial titans, but rather are mostly former confidantes or henchmen of Putin’s. Think of them as the human combination codes to Putin’s vaults and the vaults as the various Russian industries and market segments they control on Putin’s behalf.

Combination locks — or tumblers, to be more exact — can, as needed, be changed, and Putin’s favored way of doing so apparently is for disfavored Russian oligarchs to be invited to take a tumble out of an open window. Since the war began in February, according to CNN, at least one dozen “Russian businessmen have reportedly died by suicide or in unexplained accidents,” six of them alone from within Gazprom, the Kremlin’s state-owned colossal energy conglomerate.

Other deaths, each worthy of a CBS “48 Hours” or “Dateline TASS” segment (if it existed), include Alexander Buzakov earlier this month, who was the general director of Admiralty Shipyards, a St. Petersburg-based shipbuilder of Russian military submarines. Ivan Pechorindrowned in Vladivostok. He had been the senior executive at the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and Arctic (which was focused on Putin’s pre-war economic pet project, the Northern Sea Route). Anatoly Gerashchenko, who was head of the Moscow Aviation Institute, died under mysterious circumstances in September after falling down a flight of stairs.

The $64,000 question is why they are dying and who and/or what Russian organization is behind their deaths. Many in academia and some Russian experts, especially early on in the war, argued that Putin was likely to be overthrown by his oligarchs as they chose rubles over the Russian president’s desire to reincarnate himself as a modern-day Peter the Great. This, however, as noted above, is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the limited maneuvering room for power afforded oligarchs in Putin’s mafia-like pyramid structure.

Understanding this pyramid is key. Putin sits at the top and his position of power is secured by the Federal Security Service (FSB). Operating from Lubyanka Square in Moscow, just blocks from the Kremlin, they serve as his Gestapo-like secret police, armed enforcers, and Secret Service-like Praetorian guard all rolled into one. Underneath and subservient to this layer, jockeying for scraps of political power, lie the Russian state-controlled media, oligarchs, and the Russian Orthodox Church headed by Patriarch Kirill.

Notably missing from this third tier is the Russian Defense Ministry and the country’s military forces. By design, not since Russian Minister of Defense Georgy Zhukov, a Soviet hero of World War II and marshal of its armies, intervened to arrest Lavrentiy Beria after Joseph Stalin’s death in support of Nikita Khrushchev, has the Russian military had any significant political clout in Moscow. Not then — and, notably, still not now.

Please open the link and keep reading.