Putin Ally Dies 'of Stroke' in Russia's Far East

Vladimir Sungorkin, editor-in-chief of pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, has died at the age of 68.

Sungorkin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, had a stroke while on a business trip to the Khabarovsk territory in Russia's far east, a columnist for the newspaper told the state-run Interfax news agency.

"Vladimir Nikolaevich died. A stroke was suspected. He was on a business trip in the Khabarovsk Territory. Now we are organizing his removal to Moscow," Alexander Gamov said.

Vladimir Sungorkin Dead
Vladimir Sungorkin, editor-in-chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda, pictured with President Vladimir Putin at a 2018 meeting of Russian journalists in Moscow. Sungorkin has died at 68. AP

Komsomolskaya Pravda posted a statement on its Telegram account saying Sungorkin had "died suddenly" during a trip to "collect material for a book about the great pioneer of the Far East, Vladimir Arseniev."

The tabloid has been described as Putin's "favorite paper." It was founded in 1925 and was the official voice of the Central Committee of the Komsomol, or communist youth league.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov issued a statement about Sungorkin's death on Wednesday.

"This is a great loss," Peskov told reporters, adding that the Kremlin had expressed its condolences. "Today is sad news, unfortunately, Sungorkin passed away. We knew him very well," he said.

The presidential spokesman added that Putin would send a personal message to Sungorkin's friends and family.

Sungorkin, born on June 16, 1954 in Khabarovsk, had worked as the paper's editor-in-chief and director-general since 1997.

His career began at Komsomolskaya Pravda, which he joined as a transportation reporter after graduating from university in 1976. In the 1980s, he also worked for the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya.

According to Interfax, Sungorkin was awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, IV degree, in 2014. In 2018 he was granted the title "Honored Journalist of the Russian Federation."

Sungorkin was one of the Russian public figures sanctioned by the European Commission in April, after Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

The sanctions list described the journalist as "one of the main actors in foreign information manipulation and interference activities or propagandists who often speaks out on Ukraine, creating misinformation and manipulating facts."

The commission document added: "Vladimir Sungorkin is disseminating and legitimising aggressive anti-Ukraine and anti-Western propaganda of the Putin regime under direct Kremlin authority in one of Russia's most popular media outlets.

"The newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has been described also by President Vladimir Putin as his favourite newspaper. Vladimir Sungorkin is therefore responsible for supporting actions and policies which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Foreign Ministry for comment.