Police in Spain view 2 Russian killings as gender violence

MADRID (AP) — Police in northeastern Spain said Friday they are treating the slayings of a Russian woman and her daughter this week as a case of domestic violence and that the husband, a Russian former top gas executive who was also found dead, is the main suspect.

A Girona regional police spokeswoman said investigators have ruled that the killings were not related to any criminal gang act or to a similar case this week in Moscow.

Police on Tuesday found the bodies of two Russian women — a 53-year-old mother and an 18-year-old daughter — with stab wounds in bed in their house in the popular tourist town of Lloret de Mar, just north of Barcelona. The husband, who has been named as Sergei Protosenya, 55, was found hanged in the patio.

Spain´s state news agency Efe said police also found a blood-stained knife and a hatchet at the house.

Protosenya, who Spanish media reports said was very wealthy, was a former top executive for Novatek, a major natural gas producer in Russia.

On April 18, Russian state news agency Tass reported that Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprombank, and his wife and daughter were found dead in their Moscow apartment. It cited an anonymous source that reportedly told Tass that Avayev is believed to have shot his wife and daughter and then killed himself.

Novatek, meanwhile, issued a statement Thursday expressing condolences to “all those affected by this tragic situation.” The statement referred to Protosenya as a former member of the company’s management board and described him as “an outstanding person and a wonderful family man” who helped develop the company.

“Unfortunately, speculations have emerged in the media about this topic, but we are convinced that these speculations bear no relation to reality. We hope that the Spanish law enforcement authorities will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation to determine what happened,” Novatek said.

The Spanish police spokeswoman, who wasn’t authorized to be named in the media, said police went to the house in Lloret de Mar after the family’s son in France became worried about being unable to reach his relatives.

The family owned the house in Lloret de Mar and stayed there often but it was not immediately known if they also resided elsewhere.

The town hall held a minute of silence for the victims on Wednesday.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez posted a tweet Wednesday offering his condolences to the family. “A man kills his wife and daughter in Girona,” he wrote. “Two lives struck down by a structural problem that we must eradicate: machismo.”

Equality Minister Irene Montero also condemned the killings. Authorities say 12 women have been killed so far this year in domestic violence in Spain and 1,138 since 2003, when the country began such records.

Police in Girona said the police report on the case is expected to be finished soon and handed over to a court in the nearby town of Blanes.

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