Keep the faith.

Russian losses of conscripted soldiers involved in the “special military operation” in Ukraine have been overwhelming. But will they be outstripped by the increasing, and increasingly mysterious, casualties among a very different demographic—executives and oligarchs who have been critical of Vladimir Putin? has provided an eyebrow-raising tally:

  • Ivan Pechorin, manager at the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, allegedly fell off his luxury yacht and drowned in the Sea of Japan last month. “Pechorin is said to have been tasked with modernizing Russia’s aviation industry and worked directly under Putin,” said the news service.
  • Igor Nosov, the same company’s general director, died last year, reportedly of a stroke. He was a mere 43.
  • Just before Pechorin drowned, Ravil Maganov, chairman of the oil company Lukoil—which had called for an end to the Ukraine invasion—officially “passed away following a severe illness,” which turned out to be a fall from a Moscow Central Clinical Hospital window. He had been smoking and “tripped”—as one does when one smokes.
  • Another Lukoil executive, Alexander Subbotin, 43, was found dead of “heart failure” in May at the Moscow home of “a self-styled healer … who practiced purification rites,” according to Euronews. Not suspicious at all.
  • Anatoly Gerashchenko, 73, former head of the Moscow Aviation Institute, died last week after a fall down “several sets of stairs.” The home is the most dangerous of places.
  • Nikolai Glushkov, former deputy director of the Russian airline Aeroflot and a Kremlin critic, 68, was found hanged in his home in London in 2018. An inquest concluded it was murder made to look like suicide.
  • An exiled Putin critic and oligarch friend of Glushkov’s, Boris Berezovsky, had been found dead in 2013 at his home near Ascot in Berkshire “with a ligature around his neck.” An inquest reached an “open verdict”—inconclusive but suspicious. (That death immediately followed the poisoning of the double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.)

The list goes on. “At least another eight Russian oligarchs have died in strange circumstances almost since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine,” reported Euronews. Something close to an epidemic. “All had in common close links to the Kremlin, immense wealth, a connection to Russian gas and an anti-war stance on Ukraine.”

And just this week The Times of London noted the death “in suspicious circumstances” of a Russian troop-mobilization official. “The body of Roman Malyk, the commissar of Partizansk, a town of 40,000 about 90 miles east of Vladivostok, was found on a fence, with media claiming that he had taken his own life,” said the newspaper.

But let’s be open-minded. Maybe—probably—Malyk ended up on that fence after having tripped down several sets of stairs, while smoking. It can happen. But only in Russia.

The alliance between Italy’s former prime minister and Italy’s new prime minister is wobbling. Putin apologist Silvio Berlusconi “described [Giorgia] Meloni as ‘patronising, overbearing, arrogant’ and ‘offensive’ after she refused a senior cabinet post to one of his senators and blocked his attempt to take over the justice ministry,” reported The Times of London. Meloni won the elections last month and is hoping to form a government, but needs the support of the 86-year-old’s Forza Italia party to do it. Berlusconi’s biographer, Alan Friedman, told the newspaper, “[He] is not used to taking orders from a woman and must be now feeling humiliated after Meloni refused a cabinet post to his aide-de-camp.”

Like things were better in real life?

As we’ve all probably heard by now, Season Five of The Crown will offer takes, unsavory takes—according to defenders of the Crown, as opposed to defenders of The Crown—on Charles and Diana’s marital woes, Prince Philip’s very close friendship with someone very close to half his age, the Queen’s “annus horribilis,” and so on. But the most controversial advance tidbit from the new series, which airs on Netflix in November, is the notion that Prince Charles went to then prime minister John Major and urged him to consider whether the nation might be better off if the Queen abdicated and, oh, someone else were to step up to the throne.

Major called the portrayal “a barrel-load of malicious nonsense” and his office has issued a statement reading, “Sir John has not co-operated in any way with The Crown … [N]ot one of the scenes you depict are accurate in any way whatsoever. They are fiction, pure and simple.” Netflix, meanwhile, said: “The Crown has always been presented as a drama based on historical events. Series five is a fictional dramatisation, imagining what could have happened behind closed doors during a significant decade for the royal family — one that has already been scrutinised and well-documented by journalists, biographers and historians.”

Read the fine print …

Can a popular Chinese coconut-milk drink make your breasts larger? Well, no. And even though the producers of Coconut Palm admitted as much a few years ago, their newest, and much-criticized, promotional video consists of several women “wearing tight tops and shorts … danc[ing] in front of the camera with a can of coconut milk in their hands,” according to the South China Morning Post. The company had previously run an ad campaign featuring “a young woman with a plunging neckline … holding a bottle of the coconut milk” alongside a slogan that read, “A can a day and you’ll be white, tender and bosomy.” Coconut Palm was subsequently fined, said the newspaper, for having “gone against ‘social graces’ and ‘interfered with public order’.”

This tiny Catalan village has a population of 27, and more or less wants to keep it that way. When the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in Spain proposed adding Siurana to its list, the local council said, No thanks. “Mass tourism does not bring any good,” Siurana’s mayor, Salvador Salvadó, said in The Times of London. “We don’t have the capacity to absorb more people. We never asked for it. Some gentlemen came here and proposed it to us, but I don’t see what good it can bring us.”

Joining the list, which currently numbers 105 villages, comes with a $1,000 annual publicity stipend. The association’s president said that one out of four applications was turned down, and that they’d “never experienced such an emphatic rejection before…. Appearing on the list entails a significant increase in tourism, but it is seasonally adjusted. It’s not about busting the town.” But, according to the newspaper, the village brain trust also “resented being asked to make changes including improving phone coverage and installing a cashpoint machine.” An ATM too far … —George Kalogerakis

George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL