UK-based Ukrainian tycoon found dead after sanctions threat

Initial reports indicate the businessman committed suicide, yet friends tell media they suspect foul play.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A successful Ukrainian-born, UK-based businessman was found dead in his $24 million mansion on Thursday.

The incident occurred just a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the British government would be publishing a list of UK residents suspected of having ties to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin and then move to slap with them asset-freezing sanctions.

Mikhail Watford, who Anglicized his surname from Tolstosheya after settling in the UK, made millions as a businessman originally dealing in oil and gas. He later built a real estate empire.

The 66-year-old man’s body was found by a gardener in a garage on his sprawling property in the luxury Wentworth estate in Virginia Water, Surrey.

According to UK media reports, it appears that Watford hung himself.

A friend of Watford’s attributed the suspected suicide to the Russian military incursion in Ukraine.

“His state of mind might have been affected by the situation in Ukraine,” the friend told UK daily The Sun. “The timing of his death and the invasion of Ukraine was surely not coincidental.”

However, another friend said he believed that foul play may have been involved.

“His death raises questions,” the friend told the Sun. “After all the other suspicious deaths of Russian nationals and associates in the UK, it is only natural there will be speculation about his death.”

“It is truly shocking as Mikhail had everything to live for,” said a third friend. “He had a beautiful wife, children and dream home. It makes no sense at all.”

In a statement, British police said they were investigating Watford’s death with the “utmost seriousness.”

Rumors have swirled for years about Moscow being responsible for the untimely deaths of Russian nationals living abroad, including UK residents.

Watford is survived by a wife, who is an Estonian national, and three children.