KP journalist traveled to New York to find out if Ruslana Korshunova’s death was suicide or murder
You probably want to know why we’re continuing on with this story. Just because an attractive, young girl died? Even as her relatives are coming to grips with what happened and wiping away their tears, deep down there are still many unanswered questions about Ruslana Korshunova’s death. What seemed like a perfect fairytale ended with unexpected tragedy. A Russian girl from Nowhere, Kazakhstan who made the cover of Vogue and charmed the world all the sudden ended up dead on a street in the most prestigious section of Manhattan. It’s a hard story to swallow.
Imagine. They say she didn’t drink or do drugs and was afraid of heights. On Saturday, June 28, four days before her 21st birthday, she planned on going to the sauna with her girlfriend and then to party with her boyfriend. But instead she cut a hole leading from her balcony to a neighboring building, climbed three stories, ran around and then jumped off to her death. She left no note. She left behind her mother who she always was concerned about. And she also had several bank accounts with large sums and a yearly contract with the the largest modelling agency in the world IMG.
Doesn’t this seem a bit strange?
Piecing together the events
We’re sitting in the backyard of a typical two-story house in New York smoking one cigarette after another. The sun is beating down on us and together with the tobacco it feels like we had spent the whole night drinking. Yesterday there was a long, crowded ceremony quietly bidding farewell to the top model.
“Absolutely no one believes that Ruslana could have done this,” said Eduard Perchenok, father of the model’s ex-boyfriend, 24-year-old Artem. The Perchenoks were like a second family to Ruslana. Artem courted her for sometime and she often slept at his parents house.
“There were no adults who were closer to her than us here in New York. We were something like her mother and father in the U.S.,” he added, turning red from the dry tears.
Let’s try to recount the events leading up to Ruslana’s death.
Eduard’s son dated Ruslana over two years. It was her only long-term relationship. The couple broke up sometime in 2007.
“This was really due to how Ruslana was brought up,” said Artem’s mother Nina. “Her mother was supposed to come visit from Almaty. The two lived together in an apartment. But Ruslana was a bit embarrassed because they were living together unmarried. So she asked Artem to move out.”
Then the troubles began. When Ruslana’s mother left, she decided to rent an apartment closer to work — in Manhattan, right in the middle of the modelling and economic heart of the world. This made things a bit more difficult for Artem. His company was in another section of the city and it was too hard to reach her apartment through all the traffic.
“They were anxious when everything started to fall apart,” said Artem’s father. “But there wasn’t any way back. Although they always called and wrote each other, they rarely met. So in short they remained friends.”
Ruslana soon enrolled in psychological classes in Moscow where she met the young teacher, Vladimir Vorobev. The two began dating each other. However, Vladimir turned out to be engaged and his fiancee was pregnant.
One month later, Ruslana met Mark Kaminskiy at a party in New York. The 32-year-old Kaminskiy sold high-end automobiles. Judging from the photographs he published on his Odnoklassniki.ru page, the two hit it off straight away. But strangely enough, Ruslana spent the whole night before her death with Artem.
“The kids watched movies, read love poems,” Artem’s father said. “My son had this tiny book Ruslana had given him once. They read the poems from there. Later he put the book in her coffin — and his cross.”
At 04:00 Artem took her home
At around midday, Mark called Ruslana to agree on when they would meet to go to a party that evening. At 12:19, Ruslana went onto her page on Odnoklassniki.ru, but didn’t write anything. About two hours later she was found dead on the street.
Facts and Guesses
In the days following the model’s death, the Web was abound with versions about what really happened. But they’re only theories. Now we can recount them all taking into consideration the comments we received from Ruslana’s friends and family, who saw her only shortly before her death (as well as people in the Russian scene abroad who are party to information about top models, pimps, drug dealers, athletes and the wealthy.)
Version 1: Ruslana was killed by the mafia that provides top model escort services to the rich.
American papers initially published this version of the story. Ruslana, they wrote, could have learned confidential information from a client and been murdered as a result.
It’s no secret that models “do it.”
“In New York, these escort services pay just as much as working the podium,” a popular New York designer said. “That’s anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. When a girl has no shows, a lot of them earn money this way. Basically so they have pocket cocaine money…”
“I think it’s unlikely Ruslana was involved in something like this,” said a renowned New York photographer. He had previously worked with IMG. “The reason why is Korshunova was brought here omitting the Moscow agencies. Her whole story was like straight out of a movie. Her friend convinced her to do a photo shoot for the cover of a local airline magazine. The magazine wound up in the hands of the director of a leading modelling agency who was just leaving Kazakhstan. And at 15, she was already in New York. Conjectures about a Moscow-New York mafia using girls as escorts is out of place in her case.”
Version 2: She killed herself because of money problems.
The news that Ruslana had money problems was spread by her short-term lover and teacher in Moscow Vorobev, who said she didn’t even have $500 to buy a ticket back to New York.
“That’s nonsense,” said Eduard Perchenok. “Believe me, she was fine in this regard. The apartment she was renting in New York wasn’t cheap. Ruslana had paid rent until the end of the year, something like $40,000.”
Ruslana’s friends in New York who helped her mother with documents said they saw her bank account statements and they had fairly large sums.
Version 3: She was killed for the $500,000 that she was loaned by the modelling agency.
Ruslana’s girlfriends in Kazakhstan told journalists this version. Her agent was stealing her money and she was about to file a lawsuit.
“She did have problems with her agent around one year ago,” said Perchenok. “And Ruslana asked us to help her out. We called her agent and handled the negotiations. But this had nothing to do with money. Ruslana simply wanted to change her agency, but they wouldn’t let her go. But then everything solved itself.”
The Daily News made an official inquiry and learned Kornushova hadn’t filed any lawsuits. READ MORE