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FTR #982 Manafort and the Snipers: The Azov Battalion and the “Russia-Gate” Psy-Op

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Helmets of the Ukrainian Azov battalion

Introduction: Continuing and deepening analysis of the profound Ukrainian fascist connection to the “Russia-Gate” disinformation inundating the American political and journalistic landscapes, this program highlights circumstances surrounding the sniper shootings  at the Maidan demonstrations.

CORRECTION: Snipers highlighted in the story, such as Skillt, became members of the Azov Battalion. The unit had not formally coalesced as of the time of the Maidan demonstrations.

Those sniper shootings were the key circumstance generating international outrage against the Yanukovich regime and precipitating the rise of the OUN/B Ukrainain fascist successor organizations. Recorded the day after former Yanukovuch adviser and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted by [VERY] special prosecutor Robert Mueller, this program supplements discussion from FTR #981.

Distilling information concerning the sniper attacks, we review the possibility that Manafort might have played an advisory role in the sniper shootings, that the shootings might have been a provocation and examine the role of the Nazi Azov battalion and its proponents and component figures in connection with the Maidan shootings and the “Russia-Gate” propaganda. 

Emblem of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion

We wonder if recent attacks in Ukraine might be elements of a “sanitization” operation, aimed at eliminating participants in the Maidan shootings (provocation?), while blaming the violence (of course) on Russia.

Major considerations in the Azov Battalion/Maidan sniper/Manafort imbroglio include:

  1. Alleged “Russian agent” Paul Manafort–identified in FTR #919 as a probable “advance man” for regimes targeted for destabilization–may well have been the person who recommended to his “client” Yanukovich to fire on the Maidan demonstrators. It was that gunfire that signalled the end of Yanukovich’s government. This reinforces Mr. Emory’s take on Manafort. ” . . . . The lawyer’s demands for explanation spring from the hacking earlier this year of the iPhone of Mr Manafort’s daughter, [since confirmed as genuine, at least in part–D.E.] Andrea, with around 300,000 messages published in the dark web. One of the texts sent to her sister Jessica said: ‘Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money.’ It continued ‘You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly, as a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remember when there were all those deaths taking place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that, to send those people get them slaughtered.’ . . . .”
  2. Reinforcing the hypothesis that the Maidan shootings were a provocation is the disclosure by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor that the rifles allegedly used to fire on the Maidan demonstrators were recovered by an alleged Yanukovich operative and leader of the snipers who was one of the demonstrators on the Maidan! “ . . . Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko says that the man who helped the so-called “black hundred” of police task force Berkut, who had been shooting at protesters during the Revolution of Dignity, flee Kyiv and deliberately drowned their weapons to conceal evidence, was himself one of the participants of the Maidan protests. ‘With the help of military counterintelligence, we have found weapons of the ‘black hundred,’ including a sniper rifle, which the entire country saw on footage showing the shooting at the protesters from outside the October Palace,” he told the 112 Ukraine TV channel. . . . ‘We found it with a large number of automatic rifles on the bottom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a single group, whose leader is one of the targets of our investigation. Unfortunately, this man who, according to our version, upon the orders of [former Interior Minister Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the ‘black hundred’ flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, himself, was with us on the Maidan,’ Lutsenko said. . . . “
  3. The journalistic viewpoint on a Ukrainian hacker allegedly used by “Russian hackers” against the U.S. comes from  Anton Gerashchenko, part of the same milieu as Pravy Sektor, Azov, etc. Gerashchenko is, in fact, an apologist for Azov, as discussed in FTR #’s 803, 804, 808, 818:  . . . . Security experts were initially left scratching their heads when the Department of Homeland Security on Dec. 29 released technical evidence of Russian hacking that seemed to point not to Russia, but rather to Ukraine. . . A member of Ukraine’s Parliament with close ties to the security services, Anton Gerashchenko, said that the interaction was online or by phone and that the Ukrainian programmer had been paid to write customized malware without knowing its purpose, only later learning it was used in Russian hacking. . . . It is not clear whether the specific malware the programmer created was used to hack the D.N.C. servers. . . .”
  4. Exemplifying the Ukrainian fascists at the epicenter of “Russia-Gate” are a group of Ukrainian hackers, working in tandem with fascist politicians like the aforementioned Anton Gerashchenko. (This is discussed in FTR #981.) The hacker/Ukrainian fascist link spawned the “PropOrNot” list of “Russian/Kremlin/Putin” dupes in the U.S. media: This list was compiled by the Ukrainian intelligence service, interior ministry and–ahem–hackers: “. . . . One of the more frightening policies enacted by the current oligarch-nationalist regime in Kiev is an online blacklist [42] of journalists accused of collaborating with pro-Russian ‘terrorists.’ [43]  The website, ‘Myrotvorets’ [43] or ‘Peacemaker’—was set up by Ukrainian hackers working with state intelligence and police, all of which tend to share the same ultranationalist ideologies as Parubiy and the newly-appointed neo-Nazi chief of the National Police. . . . The website is designed to frighten and muzzle journalists from reporting anything but the pro-nationalist party line, and it has the backing of government officials, spies and police—including the SBU (Ukraine’s successor to the KGB), the powerful Interior Minister Avakov and his notorious far-right deputy, Anton Geraschenko. Ukraine’s journalist blacklist website—operated by Ukrainian hackers working with state intelligence—led to a rash of death threats against the doxxed journalists, whose email addresses, phone numbers and other private information was posted anonymously to the website. . . .”
  5. Anton Geraschenko is also a primary associate and defender of the Azov Battalion and the Nazi Social National Assembly that helped spawn it and overlaps its operations: ” . . . . The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s inte­rior min­istry. A min­is­te­r­ial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko [who is networking with Ukrainian hackers looming large in the “Russia-Gate” investigation–D.E.], got angry when I asked him if the bat­tal­ion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly. ‘The Social National Assem­bly is not a neo-Nazi organ­i­sa­tion,’ he said. ‘It is a party of Ukrain­ian patri­ots who are giv­ing their lives while the rich Euro­peans are only talk­ing about sup­port­ing Ukraine. When, may I ask, will Eng­lish peo­ple come here and help us fight ter­ror­ists sent by Russia’s Pres­i­dent [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lec­tur­ing us on our moral val­ues or people’s polit­i­cal affiliations?’ Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, how­ever, that there were no for­eign cit­i­zens fight­ing in the Azov Battalion. ‘There are for­eign jour­nal­ists, from Swe­den, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achieve­ments of the fight­ers in their strug­gle against ter­ror­ism,’ he said. . . .”
  6. Mikael Skillt (whom we discussed in FTR #803), alleges that he spoke to two apparent members of the unit contained at two snipers, some of whom were present during the Maidan protests and appeared to have fired at Ukrainian police units. This reinforces the view that the violence that led to the ouster of Yanukovych was the outgrowth of a provocation. Note that the Azov’s number two man–Ihor Mosiychuk–was sentenced to prison for a planned bombing in January 2014. His supporters demonstrated on his behalf on the Maidan, helping to create the turmoil that led to Yanukovich’s overthrowMight this have been part of the same gambit as the Maidan sniper attacks? ” . . . . He [Swedish army sniper Mikael Skillt] admits, however, to having spoken to at least two snipers, who, during the Maidan protests had shot at police from the Trade Union House in Kiev – at the time, the headquarters of the protestors. ‘Their mission was to take out Berkut’s snipers,’ explained Skillt.[7] The deadly shots from the Maidan, which in Western propaganda had been used to legitimize the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, have never been investigated by the putsch regime, and Berlin has never applied pressure for an investigation. . . . [On] January 10, 2014, Mosiychuk and two other fascists had been found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison for a planned August 2011 bombing attack. On the evening of January 10, ultra-right-wingers staged demonstrations protesting the sentence. The demonstrations degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. These confrontations, in turn, were then used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington to accuse Yanukovych of excessive use of force on the ‘movement fighting for democracy.’ . . .”
  7. The assassination of a Chechyan sniper fighting in Ukraine suggests the possibility that the Maidan sniper dynamic may be in the process of being sanitized, after Mr. Manafort‘s indictment, yesterdayAre the assassination of Ukrainian sniper Amina Okuyeva and the bombing attack on Ihor Mosiychuk linked? (Mosiychuk was Azov’s second in command, for whom Okuyeve worked as an advisor.) Was a previous alleged attempt on the live of Okuyeva and her husband by an assassin pretending to be a “foreign journalist” linked? Might the “foreign journalist” have been connected to the Azov Battalion? ” . . . . A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who allegedly tried to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kyiv. . . . Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road. . . . Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since blamed Russia for the attack and said that it was connected to a car-bombing last week that wounded Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk . . . Okuyeva had once worked for Mosiychuk as an adviser, according to Reuters. . . . This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner. [Was this one of the “foreign journalists” Anton Gerashchenko claimed were coming to Ukraine?–D.E.] At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so that he could give them a gift from his editors. ‘When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,’Okuyeva told RFERL after the June attack. ‘He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.’ . . . “

Program and Written Description Highlights Include:

  1. Review of Ukraine’s lustration laws–the three-sided statute targeted corruption, enhanced “anti-Communism” and–most importantly–criminalized any critical commentary on the OUN/B and UPA’s collaboration with the Third Reich.
  2. The efforts by Ukrainian fascists of the Pravy Sektor milieu to oust Petro Poroshenko by reporting corruption to U.S. authorities.
  3. Review of the Ukrainian intelligence service’s collaboration with CIA on the Manafort investigation.
  4. The role of OUN/B devotee Valentyn Nalyvaichenko in governing the SBU (the Ukrainian intelligence service.)
  5. Review of the operational links between the Ukrainian UNO-UNSA (the latest iteration of the UPA) and anti-Russian Chechen Islamists.
  6. Review of Jaroslav Stetsko’s personal secretary–Roman Svarych–as spokesman for the Azov Battalion.

1. Alleged “Russian agent” Paul Manafort–identified in FTR #919 as a probable “advance man” for regimes targeted for destabilization–may well have been the person who recommended to his “client” Yanukovich to fire on the Maidan demonstrators. It was that gunfire that signalled the end of Yanukovich’s government. This reinforces Mr. Emory’s take on Manafort. ” . . . . The lawyer’s demands for explanation spring from the hacking earlier this year of the iPhone of Mr Manafort’s daughter, [since confirmed as being genuine, at least in part–D.E.] Andrea, with around 300,000 messages published in the dark web. One of the texts sent to her sister Jessica said: ‘Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money.’ It continued ‘You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly, as a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remember when there were all those deaths taking place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that, to send those people get them slaughtered.’ . . . .”

“As the Russia Investigation Continues, the Focus Has Intensified on Ukraine”  by Kim Sengupta; The Independent; 9/21/2017.

. . . . Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, set up under Western supervision, has allegedly discovered secret accounts, the so-called “black ledger”, supposedly showing that in a period of five years, between 2007 and 2012, when Mr Manafort received $12.7m from Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Officials hold that the money was part of an illegal clandestine system which had been used to pay off a number of figures. Mr Manafort has insisted that he had not received the money.

Human rights groups in Ukraine also want to question Mr Manafort about killings during the Maidan protests in Kiev in 2014. Eugenia Zakrevska, a lawyer representing families of victims, is part of a team seeking information on who was complicit in President Yanukovych’s ordering security forces to open fire on demonstrators.

The lawyer’s demands for explanation spring from the hacking earlier this year of the iPhone of Mr Manafort’s daughter, Andrea, with around 300,000 messages published in the dark web. One of the texts sent to her sister Jessica said: “Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money.” It continued “You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly, as a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remember when there were all those deaths taking place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that, to send those people get them slaughtered.” . . . 

2. It’s worth noting that Paul Manafort has confirmed that some of the hacked texts are real. As the following article also notes, Andrea Manafort was actually with her dad in Florida during the sniper attacks. Might he have shared details of his behavior visa

“Ukraine Lawyer Seeks Probe of Alleged Hacked Texts of Manafort’s Daughter” by Simon Ostrovsky; CNN; 03/11/2017

. . . . Manafort would not confirm whether the texts were genuine, but in a Politico story last month on the texts, he indicated that some of them were.

The texts suggest that Manafort and his daughter were together in Florida on the day of the worst violence in Kiev on February 20th, when close to 50 people died. . . . 

3. Reinforcing the hypothesis that the Maidan shootings were a provocation is the disclosure by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor that the rifles allegedly used to fire on the Maidan demonstrators were recovered by an alleged Yanukovich operative and leader of the snipers who was one of the demonstrators on the Maidan! “ . . . Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko says that the man who helped the so-called “black hundred” of police task force Berkut, who had been shooting at protesters during the Revolution of Dignity, flee Kyiv and deliberately drowned their weapons to conceal evidence, was himself one of the participants of the Maidan protests. ‘With the help of military counterintelligence, we have found weapons of the ‘black hundred,’ including a sniper rifle, which the entire country saw on footage showing the shooting at the protesters from outside the October Palace,” he told the 112 Ukraine TV channel. . . . ‘We found it with a large number of automatic rifles on the bottom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a single group, whose leader is one of the targets of our investigation. Unfortunately, this man who, according to our version, upon the orders of [former Interior Minister Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the ‘black hundred’ flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, himself, was with us on the Maidan,’ Lutsenko said. . . . “

“Prosecutors say public to face unpleasant surprise in Maidan killings probe”; Unian.info; 07/24/2016

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko says that the man who helped so-called “black hundred” of police task force Berkut, who had been shooting at protesters during the Revolution of Dignity, flee Kyiv and deliberately drowned their weapons to conceal evidence, was himself one of the participants of the Maidan protests.

“With the help of military counterintelligence, we have found weapons of the “black hundred,” including a sniper rifle, which the entire country saw on footage showing the shooting at the protesters from outside the October Palace,” he told the 112 Ukraine TV channel.

“We found it with a large number of automatic rifles on the bottom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a single group, whose leader is one of the targets of our investigation. Unfortunately, this man who, according to our version, upon the orders of [former Interior Minister Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the “black hundred” flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, himself, was with us on the Maidan,” Lutsenko said. . . .

. . . . Earlier, Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said: “When public learns who is involved in this, people will be very surprised.” According to him, information to be published may cause rejection, “but the truth is the truth.” . . . .

4a. Note the Ukrainian intelligence services’ apparent role in the “investigation” into Russia-Gate. Note the CIA’s role in this concatenation. (CIA is also deeply connected to Felix Sater, Trump’s point man for his dealings with Russia. ” . . . . . . . . While still politically influenced, Ukrainian law enforcement is no longer a swamp of incompetence and corruption. It has been able to monitor Mr. Manafort’s former business associates and turn up evidence of Russian hacking in the 2016 United States election, in part owing to American support. . . . [The “evidence” comes from Ukrainian security services–D.E.]”

“Schooled in Scandal: What Makes Ukraine a Hotbed of Intrigue” by Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer; The New York Times; 10/7/2017.

. . . . While still politically influenced, Ukrainian law enforcement is no longer a swamp of incompetence and corruption. It has been able to monitor Mr. Manafort’s former business associates and turn up evidence of Russian hacking in the 2016 United States election, in part owing to American support.

The C.I.A. tore out a Russian-provided cellphone surveillance system, and put in American-supplied computers, said Viktoria Gorbuz, a former head of liaison at the S.B.U.

Ms. Gorbuz’s department translated telephone intercepts from the new system and forwarded them to the Americans.

It is unclear whether any phone intercepts relevant to the election meddling investigation have gone to the American authorities. But a Ukrainian law enforcement official has given journalists partial phone records of former associates of Mr. Manafiort. . . .

4b. Next, we review an arti­cle about for­eign neo-Nazis in the ranks of the Ukrainian military formations. The neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed and armed by the inte­rior min­istry. The bat­tal­ion leader–Andrei Biletsky is also the leader of the “Social National Assem­bly.” The number two man in Azov is Ihor Mosiychuk, now in Ukraine’s parliament. Swedish army veteran, sniper and Nazi Mikael Skillt serves with Azov. Note Anton Geraschchenko’s relationship with Azov, as well as his statement that “foreign journalists” are serving with Azov. ” . . . . Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ expe­ri­ence in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is cur­rently fight­ing with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a pro-Ukrainian vol­un­teer armed group in east­ern Ukraine. . . . The key fig­ures in the Azov Bat­tal­ion are its com­man­der, Andriy Bilet­sky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk. . . . Andriy Bilet­sky is also the leader of a Ukrain­ian organ­i­za­tion called the Social National Assem­bly. . . . The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s inte­rior min­istry. A min­is­te­r­ial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko [who is networking with Ukrainian hackers looming large in the ‘Russia-Gate’ investigation–D.E.], got angry when I asked him if the bat­tal­ion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly. ‘The Social National Assem­bly is not a neo-Nazi organ­i­za­tion,’ he said. . . . Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, how­ever, that there were no for­eign cit­i­zens fight­ing in the Azov Battalion. ‘There are for­eign jour­nal­ists, from Swe­den, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achieve­ments of the fight­ers in their strug­gle against ter­ror­ism,’ he said. . . .”

“Ukraine Con­flict: ‘White power’ War­rior from Swe­den” by Dina New­man; BBC News; 7/16/2014.

The appear­ance of far-right activists, both for­eign and home-grown, among the Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers fight­ing in east Ukraine is caus­ing unease.

Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ expe­ri­ence in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is cur­rently fight­ing with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a pro-Ukrainian vol­un­teer armed group in east­ern Ukraine. He is known to be dan­ger­ous to the rebels: report­edly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head.

In a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion from an undis­closed loca­tion, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three pur­poses in the Azov Bat­tal­ion: I am a com­man­der of a small recon­nais­sance unit, I am also a sniper, and some­times I work as a spe­cial coor­di­na­tor for clear­ing houses and going into civil­ian areas.” . . . . 

As to his polit­i­cal views, Mr Skillt prefers to call him­self a nation­al­ist, but in fact his views are typ­i­cal of a neo-Nazi.

“It’s all about how you see it,” he says. “I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see sur­vival of white peo­ple. After World War Two, the vic­tors wrote their his­tory. They decided that it’s always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud.”

‘One stray liberal’

Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white peo­ple. . . .

. . . . The key fig­ures in the Azov Bat­tal­ion are its com­man­der, Andriy Bilet­sky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk.

Andriy Bilet­sky is also the leader of a Ukrain­ian organ­i­sa­tion called the Social National Assem­bly. Its aims are stated in one of their online publications:

* “to pre­pare Ukraine for fur­ther expan­sion and to strug­gle for the lib­er­a­tion of the entire White Race from the dom­i­na­tion of the inter­na­tion­al­ist spec­u­la­tive capital”

* “to pun­ish severely sex­ual per­ver­sions and any inter­ra­cial con­tacts that lead to the extinc­tion of the white man”

This, accord­ing to experts, is a typ­i­cal neo-Nazi narrative.

‘For­eign journalists’

The Azov Bat­tal­ion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s inte­rior min­istry. A min­is­te­r­ial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko [who is networking with Ukrainian hackers looming large in the “Russia-Gate” investigation–D.E.], got angry when I asked him if the bat­tal­ion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly.

“The Social National Assem­bly is not a neo-Nazi organ­i­sa­tion,” he said.

“It is a party of Ukrain­ian patri­ots who are giv­ing their lives while the rich Euro­peans are only talk­ing about sup­port­ing Ukraine. When, may I ask, will Eng­lish peo­ple come here and help us fight ter­ror­ists sent by Russia’s Pres­i­dent [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lec­tur­ing us on our moral val­ues or people’s polit­i­cal affiliations?”

Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, how­ever, that there were no for­eign cit­i­zens fight­ing in the Azov Battalion.

“There are for­eign jour­nal­ists, from Swe­den, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achieve­ments of the fight­ers in their strug­gle against ter­ror­ism,” he said.

He insisted he had never heard of Mikael Skillt, the Swedish sniper. . . .

5. In numerous programs, we have highlighted the Azov Battalion, one of many Nazi/fascist combatant militias fighting as part of the Ukrainian military. Another useful post from german-foreign-policy.com highlights the fact that the Azov Battalion was formed by Oleh Lyashko, who also heads the Radical Party.

Mikael Skillt (whom we discussed in FTR #803), alleges that he spoke to two aparent members of the unit contained at two snipers, some of whom were present during the Maidan protests and appeared to have fired at Ukrainian police units. This reinforces the view that the violence that led to the ouster of Yanukovych was the outgrowth of a provocation.

Note that the Azov’s number two man–Ihor Mosiychuk–was sentenced to prison for a planned bombing in January 2014. His supporters demonstrated on his behalf on the Maidan, helping to create the turmoil that led to Yanukovich’s overthrow.

” . . . . He [Swedish army sniper Mikael Skillt] admits, however, to having spoken to at least two snipers, who, during the Maidan protests had shot at police from the Trade Union House in Kiev – at the time, the headquarters of the protestors. ‘Their mission was to take out Berkut’s snipers,’ explained Skillt.[7] The deadly shots from the Maidan, which in Western propaganda had been used to legitimize the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, have never been investigated by the putsch regime, and Berlin has never applied pressure for an investigation. . . . [On] January 10, 2014, Mosiychuk and two other fascists had been found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison for a planned August 2011 bombing attack. On the evening of January 10, ultra-right-wingers staged demonstrations protesting the sentence. The demonstrations degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. These confrontations, in turn, were then used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington to accuse Yanukovych of excessive use of force on the ‘movement fighting for democracy.’ . . .”  

“Ukrainian Patriots”; german-foreign-policy.com; 7/30/2014.

. . . . He [Oleh Lyashko] is also co-founder and supporter of the Azov Battalion, a militia of over one hundred – mainly fascist – combatants, including a Swedish Neo-Nazi sniper. He has reported that other snipers had already been in action for the opposition during the Maidan protests.It has never been revealed, who fired the fatal shots on February 20. In this highly charged atmosphere, the Ukrainian government is taking steps that indicate a political cultural development even further to the right. It is planning to censure films and books from Russia or to restrict their sales. . . .

. . . .  The Swedish neo-Nazi Mikael Skillt is a member of the Azov Battalion. Skillt, a member of the fascist Svenskarnas Parti (Party of the Swedes), says that he has “at least” three purposes in the unit: commander of “a small reconnaissance unit,” a “sniper” and sometimes he works “as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.” The person, who is rumored to have been captured by East Ukrainian insurgents, had been a sniper for six years in the Swedish military. He says, he has only been engaged in the Ukrainian conflict since March. He admits, however, to having spoken to at least two snipers, who, during the Maidan protests had shot at police from the Trade Union House in Kiev – at the time, the headquarters of the protestors. “Their mission was to take out Berkut’s snipers,” explained Skillt.[7] The deadly shots from the Maidan, which in Western propaganda had been used to legitimize the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, have never been investigated by the putsch regime, and Berlin has never applied pressure for an investigation.

Political Prisoners

The Azov Battalion has close ties to Oleh Lyashko, whose “Radical Party,” would currently be able to poll a fourth of the votes if elections were held. Lyashko is considered to be one of the Azov’s founders. For internet videos, he allows himself to be filmed at joint actions with Asov combatants. The Azov Battalion’s second in command, Ihor Mosiychuk, had been elected to Kiev’s Municipal Council on the electoral list of Lyashko’s Radical Party. This was not the first time Lyashko had intervened on his behalf. January 10, 2014, Mosiychuk and two other fascists had been found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison for a planned August 2011 bombing attack. On the evening of January 10, ultra-right-wingers staged demonstrations protesting the sentence. The demonstrations degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. These confrontations, in turn, were then used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington to accuse Yanukovych of excessive use of force on the “movement fighting for democracy.” The protests were unsuccessful. However, immediately after the Kiev coup, Mosiychuk and his accomplices profited from the amnesty, the pro-western Ukrainian parliament granted on February 24, 2014 to “political prisoners”. Due to Lyashko’s decisive engagement, Mosiychuk profited from the amnesty, was liberated from prison and could participate in the organization the Azov Battalion. . . .

. . . . . [1] Jakov Devcic: Jazenjuks Rücktrittsversuch. www.kas.de 29.07.2014.
[2] Ukraine will russische Kultur zurückdrängen. www.n-tv.de 29.07.2014.
[3] S. dazu Termin beim Botschafter.
[4] Dina Newman: Ukraine conflict: “White power” warrior from Sweden. www.bbc.co.uk 16.07.2014.
[5] Daniel McLaughlin: Foreigners join far-right militias in Ukraine’s fight against rebels. www.irishtimes.com 17.07.2014.
[6] Hal Foster: A special-forces unit, started from scratch, wins a key battle in Ukraine. en.tengrinews.kz 21.06.2014.
[7] Swede Patrols Ukraine’s Streets with Right-wing Paramilitaries. www.friatider.se 26.03.2014.

6. Illustrating the direct line of institutional evolution from the OUN/B to the present, Pravy Sektor is the political arm of the UNA-UNSO, the latest iteration of the OUN/B’s military cadre, the UPA. It elected Yuriy Shukheyvch as its head. Shukheyvch is the son of OUN/B commander Roman Shukhevych, declared a “Hero of Ukraine” by the Yuschenko government. Roman also headed the Nachtigall Battalion in their liquidation of the Lvov Ghetto in 1941.

In FTR #967, we noted that the city of Lviv (Lvov) has initiated a festival in honor of Shukhevych on the anniversary of Nachtigall Battalion’s liquidation of the Lvov ghetto!

Note that the UNA/UNSO organization–the political parent of Pravy Sektor–has apparently been active in Chechnya as well. This is a precursor to the Chechnyan participation in the Ukraine conflict, discussed in–among other programs–FTR #862.

“The Durability of Ukrainian Fascism” by Peter Lee; Strategic Culture; 6/9/2014.

. . . . One of Bandera’s lieutenants was Roman Shukhevych.  In February 1945, Shukhevych issued an order stating, “In view of the success of the Soviet forces it is necessary to speed up the liquidation of the Poles, they must be totally wiped out, their villages burned … only the Polish population must be destroyed.”

As a matter of additional embarrassment, Shukhevych was also a commander in the Nachtigall (Nightingale) battalion organized by the Wehrmacht.

Today, a major preoccupation of Ukrainian nationalist historical scholarship is beating back rather convincing allegations by Russian, Polish, and Jewish historians that Nachtigall was an important and active participant in the massacre of Lviv Jews orchestrated by the German army upon its arrival in June 1941. . . .

. . . . Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in modern Ukrainian fascism is not simply that of an inspirational figurehead and reminder of his father’s anti-Soviet heroics for proud Ukrainian nationalists.  He is a core figure in the emergence of the key Ukrainian fascist formation, Pravy Sektor and its paramilitary.

And Pravy Sektor’s paramilitary, the UNA-UNSO, is not an “unruly” collection of weekend-warrior-wannabes, as Mr. Higgins might believe.

UNA-UNSO was formed during the turmoil of the early 1990s, largely by ethnic Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Union’s bitter war in Afghanistan.  From the first, the UNA-UNSO has shown a taste for foreign adventures, sending detachments to Moscow in 1990 to oppose the Communist coup against Yeltsin, and to Lithuania in 1991.  With apparently very good reason, the Russians have also accused UNA-UNSO fighters of participating on the anti-Russian side in Georgia and Chechnya.

After formal Ukrainian independence, the militia elected Yuriy Shukhevych—the son of OUN-B commander Roman Shukhevych– as its leader and set up a political arm, which later became Pravy Sektor. . . .

7. An interesting assassination of a Chechyan sniper fighting in Ukraine suggests the possibility that the Maidan sniper dynamic may be in the process of being sanitized, after Mr. Manafort‘s indictment, yesterdayAre the assassination of Ukrainian sniper Amina Okuyeva and the bombing attack on Ihor Mosiychuk linked? (Mosiychuk was Azov’s second in command, for whom Okuyeve worked as an advisor.) Was a previous alleged attempt on the live of Okuyeva and her husband by an assassin pretending to be a “foreign journalist” linked? Might the “foreign journalist” have been connected to the Azov Battalion? ” . . . . A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who allegedly tried to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kyiv. . . . Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road. . . . Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since blamed Russia for the attack and said that it was connected to a car-bombing last week that wounded Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk . . . Okuyeva had once worked for Mosiychuk as an adviser, according to Reuters. . . . This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner. [Was this one of the “foreign journalists” Anton Gerashchenko claimed were coming to Ukraine?–D.E.] At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so that he could give them a gift from his editors. ‘When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,’Okuyeva told RFERL after the June attack. ‘He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.’ . . . “

“A Veteran Ukrainian Sniper Whose Husband Allegedly Plotted to Kill Putin Was Shot Dead Near Kyiv” by Daniel Brown; Business Insider; 10/31/2017.

  • A Ukrainian veteran sniper was shot dead, and her husband, who allegedly tried to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012, was wounded near Kyiv.
  • The Chechen couple had both fought against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas and were considered heroes in Ukraine.
  • The incident is the latest of more than a dozen assassinations or attempted assassinations in Ukraine since 2014.

A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who allegedly tried to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kyiv.

Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road.

“She was shot in the head. I drove as much as I could until the car stopped, I don’t know, the engine was also hit. I tried to give her first aid, but she was shot in the head,” Osmayev told Lb.ua, a Ukrainian media outlet.

Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since blamed Russia for the attack and said that it was connected to a car-bombing last week that wounded Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who routinely insulted Russian politicians and once posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s hand-picked leader of Chechnya.

Okuyeva had once worked for Mosiychuk as an adviser, according to Reuters.

This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner.

At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so that he could give them a gift from his editors.

“When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,” Okuyeva told RFERL after the June attack. “He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.”

Okuyeva then pulled out her own gun and shot the would-be assassin three times before, as she told RFERL, “I pounced on him with my bare hands and he gave up the gun.”

Osmayev was shot in the chest, but his wife treated “Adam’s wound immediately” and he survived that attack as well. Ukraine has since blamed Russia for orchestrating the hit.

In 2012, Osmayev was accused by Moscow of plotting to kill Putin. He was arrested in Kyiv in February 2012 for possession of illegal explosives and was even charged with the plot by Ukrainian authorities at the behest of Russia.

But Kyiv refused to extradite Osmayev, and the charges were eventually dropped. He was released from custody in November 2014 – just months after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich had fled to Russia and fighting started in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine.

Okuyeva and Osmayev – both Muslims and ethnic Chechens – have been celebrated in Ukraine as heroes, having served in Chechen volunteer battalions fighting against Russian-backed separatist in the Donbas.

Okuyeva, who reportedly wore her hijab in battle and fought for equality among men and women in the military, was a paramedic and sniper. Osmayev became commander of the volunteer Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion in 2015.

“I declare a war on the Russian Empire,” Okuyeva told Politico in 2014. “If Russian forces continue to fight in Ukraine, thousands of Chechen immigrants living in Europe, who had been ousted of their land during the two Chechen wars, will come to Ukraine to fight a war to defend this country.”

8a. Andrei Artemenko wasn’t the only Ukrainian politician to approach the Trump administration with a peace plan in early 2017. Yulia Tymoshenko did the same thing in February, saying Trump promised her that he would “not abandon Ukraine.”

Additionally, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine and a political ally of Tymoshenko, claims he traveled to the US in December and January and delivered to the U.S. Department of Justice proof of “political corruption by (Ukraine’s) top officials.” And he apparently gave the same material to Artemenko in 2015. And while Nalyvaichenko says he doesn’t back Artemenko’s peace plan, he did admit to submit a peace plan of his own to the US government.

Nalyvaichenko is a direct heir to the OUN/B, having run Ukrainian intelligence (the SBU) along the lines of the OUN/B. Nalyvaichenko is very close to Pravy Sektor and Dimitry Yarosh.

Peace proposals by anti-Russian figues include one by Viktor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who also a member of the anti-Russian Atlantic Council.

Of paramount significance, here, are the lustration law–a triple-faced entity. The law is “anti-corruption,” anti-Communist, and also criminalizes telling the truth about the collaboration between the OUN/B, its military wing the UPA and the Third Reich.

Elements of the Ukrainian fascist milieu have been attempting to oust Poroshenko in favor of elevating a fellow fascist to head of the government. The lustration law looms large in this context, as does the fact that Poroshenko was Yanukovych’s finance minister and, as such, undoubtedly involved with Mr. Manafort and whatever he did, or did not do in that benighted country.

“Artemenko Goes from Obscurity to Notoriety” by Melkorezeva, Oksana Grytsenko; Kyiv Post; 02/24/2017

. . . . But Artemenko is not the only Ukrainian politician to reach out to the White House behind President Petro Poroshenko’s back.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and leader of Batkivshchyna Party, had a brief meeting with U.S. President Donald J. Trump before the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Feb. 3, during which Trump reportedly promised her that he would “not abandon Ukraine.”

And Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine and a political ally of Tymoshenko, says he visited the U.S. in December and January.

Nalyvaichenko told the Kyiv Post he met there with former Republican Senator Jim DeMint, a Trump advisor and president of the conservative the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Bob Corker, a Republican senator from Tennessee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

Nalyvaichenko said he delivered to the U.S. Department of Justice proof of “political corruption by (Ukraine’s) top officials.” He said also delivered to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office materials about alleged money laundering and the illegal use of offshore companies by Poroshenko’s business partner and lawmaker Ihor Kononenko.

Back in 2015, Nalyvaichenko gave the compromising materials on Poroshenko to Artemenko, which he claimed to also give to the U.S. authorities. . . .

8b. Pravy Sektor associate Valentyn Nalyvaichenko had been the head of the SBU (Ukrainian intelligence service) since the Maidan Coup, up until his ouster in June of 2015. Not surprisingly, he had operated the organization along the lines of the OUN/B.

Previously, he had served in that same capacity under Viktor Yuschenko, seeing the outfit as a vehicle for rewriting Ukraine’s history in accordance with the historical revisionism favored by the OUN/B.

Very close to Pravy Sektor head Dymitro Yarosh, Nalyvaichenko employed Yarosh while serving in the Ukrainian parliament.  Yarosh claims that the two collaborated on “anti-terrorist” operations conducted against ethnic Russians.

Bear in mind that the SBU has been the “cognitive window” through which the events in Ukraine have been processed.

 “The Return of the Ukrainian Far Right: The Case of VO Svoboda,” by Per Anders Rudling;  Analyzing Fascist Discourse: European Fascism in Talk and Text edited by Ruth Wodak and John E. Richardson;  Routledge [London and New York] 2013; pp. 228-255, more.

. . . A reconstructed historical memory is created as ‘true memory’ and then contrasted with ‘false Soviet history’ ”(Jilge, 2007:104–105). Thus, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, SBU director under Yushchenko, described the task of his agency as being to disseminate “the historical truth of the past of the Ukrainian people,” to “liberate Ukrainian history from lies and falsifications and to work with truthful documents only” (Jilge, 2008:179). Ignoring the OUN’s antisemitism, denying its participation in anti- Jewish violence, and overlooking its fascist ideology, Nalyvaichenko and his agency presented the OUN as democrats, pluralists, even righteous rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. . . .

8c. Nalyvaichenko’s SBU has manifested a fundamentally revisionist stance with regard to the OUN/B’s World War II genocidal attacks on ethnic Poles in Ukraine–a bloody campaign that claimed up to 100,000 lives.

Poland Stretches Out Its Hands to the Freedom Fighters” by Rob Slane; The Blogmire; 4/11/2015.

. . . . Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities show no signs whatsoever that they are about to abandon their admiration of those responsible for these horrific crimes. To the contrary, they seem to be intent on admiring them all the more, as the SBU head Valentyn Nalyvaichenko’s recent words indicate: “SBU does not need to invent anything extra — it is important to build on the traditions and approaches of the OUN-UPA security service. It [the OUN-UPA security service] worked against the aggressor during the temporary occupation of the territory, it had a patriotic upbringing, used a counterintelligence unit, and had relied on the peaceful Ukrainian population using its support.” . . . .

8d. Very close to Pravy Sektor head Dymitro Yarosh, Nalyvaichenko employed Yarosh while serving in the Ukrainian parliament.  Yarosh claims that the two collaborated on “anti-terrorist” operations conducted against ethnic Russians.

Bear in mind that the SBU has been the “cognitive window” through which the events in Ukraine have been processed.

“Yarosh Comments on Dismissal of His ‘Friend’ Nalyvaichenko;” EurAsia Daily; 6/25/2015. 

The leader of the Right Sector extremist group Dmytro Yarosh believes that the dismissal of Chief of the Security Service Valentyn Nalyvaichenko was illogical and untimely. He writes in Facebook that Nalyvaichenko is his friend, who has raised the Security Service from zero and has neutralized lots of terrorist threats all over the country. “I know what I am talking about as my Right Sector was involved in many of his special operations against Russian terrorists,” Yarosh said. . . . . . In the past Yarosh was Nalyvaichenko’s advisor.

8e. Exemplary of the Nazification of Ukraine is the elevation of Pravy Sektor’s Yarosh to being an advisor to the chief of the Ukrainian general staff.

” . . . . Yarosh is now a member of parliament and an advisor to the chief of general staff of the Ukrainian army. In other words, Yarosh has been legitimized by the political establishment. . . .”

“Switching Spymasters Amid War Is Risky” by Brian Mefford; Atlantic Council; 6/18/2015.

Valentin Nalyvaichenko, head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), is in trouble again. On June 15, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was “unsatisfied” with Nalyvaichenko’s work. Three days later, Ukraine’s parliament dismissed him. . . . . . . . Poroshenko Bloc MP Serhiy Leshchenko released a document confirming old rumors that Right Sector’s Dmitro Yarosh worked for Nalyvaichenko when he was a member of parliament from 2012 to 2014. While the connection between the two raises some questions about the events of Euromaidan and the origins of Right Sector, this attack alone wasn’t enough to discredit Nalyvychenko. Yarosh is now a member of parliament and an advisor to the chief of general staff of the Ukrainian army. In other words, Yarosh has been legitimized by the political establishment.. . .

8f. It is not surprising that Kristofer Harrison (the author of an apologia for the Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine) is a former Defense Department and State Department advisor to George W. Bush. Noteworthy in his propaganda piece dismissing Representative John Conyers (D-MI) as “the Kremlin’s Man in Congress” and discounting anyone else discussing the ascension of the OUN/B fascists in Ukraine in a similar vein, is the identity of his source for assurances that Azov is not a Nazi unit.

The Azov’s spokesman is Roman Zvarych, the personal secretary to Jaroslav Stetsko in the 1980’s. Stetsko was the head of the World War II OUN/B government that collaborated with the Nazis!

After emigrating to Ukraine in the early ’90’s Zvarych and forming the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists with Slava Stetsko (Jaroslav’s widow) Zvarych became: Justice Minister (the equivalent of Attorney General of the United States) under the governments of Viktor Yuschenko and both Yulia Timoshenko governments. He has been serving as an adviser to president Poroshenko.

“Putin’s Man in Congress” by Kristofer Harrison; The Huffington Post; 8/7/2015.

. . . .The Azov’s spokesman, Roman Zvarych, told me that the battalion has a selective screening program that accepts only 50 out of almost 300 recruits each month. He says they have a thorough background check and reject members for various reasons, including having fascist leanings. . . .

. . . . Rep. Conyers played an important role in helping the Russian Nazi meme evolve from the stuff of conspiracy theorists, kooks and fellow-travelers into something the mainstream press happily prints. Rep. Conyers took to the floor of the House to submit his amendment and label the unit, “The repulsive Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.” From there, the Daily Beast ran a story titled “Is America Training Neonazis in Ukraine?” using Conyers’ bill as factual support. The day after the amendment’s passage, Leonoid Bershidsky ran a Bloomberg View article titled “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Money.” Even the Canadians have been affected. On June 16th, the National Post ran a story titled “Fears that Canadian Mission in Ukraine May Unintentionally Help Neonazi Groups.”. . . .

 

Discussion

14 comments for “FTR #982 Manafort and the Snipers: The Azov Battalion and the “Russia-Gate” Psy-Op”

  1. Here’s something worth noting about the charges against Paul Manafort issued in the Mueller investigation related to Ukrainian money-laundering along with the lingering questions over whether or not Manafort played a role in Maidan sniper attacks. As expected, many in Ukraine are thrilled to see Manafort prosecuted given his public ties to the Yanukovych government. Less expected is the Russian government line on Manafort’s troubles which appears to be amusement seeing the US prosecute someone Moscow views as a CIA agent.

    It represents what could be a fascinating new chapter in the Adventures of Paul Manafort: The race to disown Manafort and prove he’s working for the other team. And given how the evidence that Manafort really did play a role in the sniper shootings suggests that he was trying to ensure the Maidan revolution succeeded, this could end up being a very interesting phase of the Manafort’s adventures:

    The Daily Beast

    Ukraine Believes Paul Manafort’s Crimes Go Way Beyond Money Laundering
    Ukrainian investigators who helped collect evidence used to indict President Trump’s former campaign chairman also want to look at Manafort’s possible role in a 2014 massacre.

    Anna Nemtsova
    10.31.17 1:00 AM ET

    MOSCOW—Many of Kiev’s journalists, investigators, and officials felt genuinely happy on Monday when they heard Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, had been indicted on charges of laundering more than $18 million from Ukraine.

    Most of the 12 counts of the indictment pulled together by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team spoke about Manafort’s illegal financial deals when he was working for Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin Party of Regions from 2006 onward. It also accused him of “conspiracy against the United States,” since Manafort allegedly used multiple shell companies to hide his money, and never bothered to inform U.S. authorities about the true size of his income.

    Manafort had racked up this fortune as an adviser to the infamously corrupt Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled into exile in Russia in 2014. So, to see Manafort brought up on charges and threatened with jail time was considered a triumph for Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, which overthrew Yanukovych. During the uprising, which centered on Kiev’s central square, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, more than 100 people lost their lives in 2014.

    “It is very important for Ukraine to never see such a phenomenon as Manafort on its soil ever again,” journalist and commentator Ekaterina Sergatskova told The Daily Beast. “He symbolizes the ‘old regime’ of money laundering, corrupt lobbying, dirty scams—the regime that made millions suffer—both in Ukraine and in United States. Manafort served a regime that worked under Russia’s total control—that regime should never come to power in Ukraine again.”

    In the past year, Ukrainians have constantly heard sinister news about Manafort. But the investigation conducted in the U.S. raised even more questions for people who want to know how he was advising Yanukovych as political opponents were rounded up and violent attacks mounted against the opposition.

    “Well done,” the head of Ukraine’s special prosecutions office, Serhiy Gorbatyuk, told The Daily Beast as he looked through the indictment. “We find item number 22 especially important: It confirms our own investigation was on the right track.”

    Paragraph 22 of the indictment says that Manafort and his associate Richard W. Gates III directed the lobbyists they’d retained in Washington to lobby in connection with the roll out of a report commissioned by the government of Ukraine about the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister of Ukraine who spent three years in prison. The international democratic community, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, supported Tymoshenko in jail, while Manafort and Gates advised Yanukovych about his repressive politics.

    Over the past year, as The Daily Beast reported in May, Ukraine’s politicians have cooperated with the FBI while civil society groups and prosecutors have been working hard, conducting several independent investigations into the alleged corruption of Paul Manafort. Members of Ukraine’s parliament, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, prosecutors, and journalists were analyzing the list of 22 Manafort payments in 2007-2012 totaling more than $12 million.

    As a result of Ukraine’s cooperation with Western media, the information about the “Black Ledger,” an accounting document found among the Yanukovych papers, exposed corruption in great detail, including some that involved Manafort. As a result, he had to quit Trump’s campaign.

    “We hope that with the help of American investigators we’ll find what role Manafort’s friends among the Ukrainian oligarchs… played in money laundering,” prominent Ukrainian journalist Khristina Berdynskykh told The Daily Beast. “We are happy that it’s been proved that our former politicians threw away millions of dollars—it shows the scale of corruption; although we also wonder, of course, why for all these years American authorities have ignored Manafort’s actions.”

    Was Manafort backing all the decisions by Yanukovych, including the murders of protesters in Maidan square? Many in Ukraine suspect that was the case.

    Manafort returned to Kiev even after the horrible violence on its central square to help re-form the Party of Regions into a new organization. His representatives, including his current lawyer, insist he is innocent of charges in the U.S. indictment and that his role in Ukraine was to encourage pro-European Union democratic government. But investigators in Kiev aren’t buying that for a minute.

    In March this year The Daily Beast reported that Yevgenia Zakrevskaya, an attorney in the Ukrainian capital, and one of the strongest liberal voices in the country, focused attention on Manafort after text messages between his daughters were hacked and released in February. One of them, from Andrea Manafort to her sister, read “Don’t fool yourself. The money we have is blood money.”

    “All Mr. Yanukovych’s allies, supporters of the former regime, should be questioned on this case as potentially responsible for the mass killings during the Maidan protests; including, if the facts get proved, Mr. Manafort,” Ukrainian legal expert Mikhail Zhernakov told The Daily Beast.

    The Kremlin’s advisers who advised Yanukovych together with Manafort were also happy about the investigation for their own reasons.

    “We feel malevolent joy about Manafort’s arrest,” Sergei Markov, Russia’s spin doctor during the Yanukovych presidential campaign, told The Daily Beast. “We Russians who worked with him in Kiev are gloating, as he was a CIA agent and it is fun to see America investigating its own former agents.”

    Markov offered no proof of the CIA allegation, but he did reinforce the argument that Manafort was paid with dirty funds. “Of course Manafort was paid grey money and sent it to offshore accounts—that is what everybody does. Ukraine has always been corrupt.”

    Moscow’s mainstream media, meanwhile, continued to deny Russia’s involvement with the U.S. election last year, pushing the story about fake news. On Monday one of the most popular news shows, Vesti, reported that Hillary Clinton paid $6 million for a campaign to discredit Trump. But even in Moscow nobody seemed too enthusiastic about defending Manafort.

    ———-

    “In March this year The Daily Beast reported that Yevgenia Zakrevskaya, an attorney in the Ukrainian capital, and one of the strongest liberal voices in the country, focused attention on Manafort after text messages between his daughters were hacked and released in February. One of them, from Andrea Manafort to her sister, read “Don’t fool yourself. The money we have is blood money.”

    A lot of eyes in Ukraine are keenly interested in Andrea Manafort’s hacked texts. And the keen interest in Ukraine is extremely understandable given the nature of those texts and all the people gunned down in that sniper attack.

    But let’s not forget that those texts indicated that Manafort pushed for people to be killed in Ukraine (around the time of the Maidan protests) in order to bring international attention to the situation which did not make sense unless Manafort really was working for the CIA or some other third party (not necessarily US) who wanted to see the Maidan revolution succeed.

    And let’s also not forget that Manafort was an advisor-for-hire and it’s pretty apparent from his history that he might be the kind of guy that could be secretly hired to work against his current clients. After all, he apparently pushed to have people killed for political effect. That seems like the kind of person who might work for Yanukovych while simultaneously working for someone trying to get Yanukovych overthrown which is a big reason why the spin from Moscow might end up being a lot more than just spin:


    The Kremlin’s advisers who advised Yanukovych together with Manafort were also happy about the investigation for their own reasons.

    “We feel malevolent joy about Manafort’s arrest,” Sergei Markov, Russia’s spin doctor during the Yanukovych presidential campaign, told The Daily Beast. “We Russians who worked with him in Kiev are gloating, as he was a CIA agent and it is fun to see America investigating its own former agents.”

    Markov offered no proof of the CIA allegation, but he did reinforce the argument that Manafort was paid with dirty funds. “Of course Manafort was paid grey money and sent it to offshore accounts—that is what everybody does. Ukraine has always been corrupt.”

    Moscow’s mainstream media, meanwhile, continued to deny Russia’s involvement with the U.S. election last year, pushing the story about fake news. On Monday one of the most popular news shows, Vesti, reported that Hillary Clinton paid $6 million for a campaign to discredit Trump. But even in Moscow nobody seemed too enthusiastic about defending Manafort.

    That’s all part of what could make the Manafort-disownership phase of this nightmare so fascinating: He really might have been working for all sides. He may have legitimately been advising Yanokovych for years while secretly working with the forces behind the Maidan movement, especially the far-right forces who represent the prime suspects for actually carrying out the sniper attacks for every effective political effect. And who knows who else may have secretly bought him out at that point because that appears to be the kind of guy Manafort is: a guy for hire to advice in the dark arts of politics. The kind of dark arts that might involve killing people for political effect if Andrea Manafort’s hacked texts are to be believed. That’s the kind of kind of guy who could be working for all sorts of sides simultaneously which is what’s going to make the unfolding of Manafort’s story so fascinating.

    And if Russia really has felt Manafort was CIA all alone it would raise the question of what Manafort’s presences at the June 9th, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian delegation. Given that Manafort joined the Trump campaign on March 29th, right around when George Papadopoulos was engaged in his Russian outreach with Joseph Mifsud the Maltese Professor. So Manafort’s presence overlapped heavily with the period when the Trump campaign was playing footsie with Russians. If the Kremlin really did view Manafort as a US/EU agent that would presumably alter the behavior of Russian government cutouts when it comes to Manafort. Perhaps the outreach to Don Jr. by Rob Goldstone was an attempt to get around Manafort and straight to the Trump family? encouraging them to reach o. It’s an example of why the question of who Manafort was working, or at least who the Russians thought he worked for, is actually a pretty important question.

    Who will end up holding the Manafort hot potato once this is all over? Given the range of clients one could reasonably imagine court someone like Manafort he had to be getting courted by all sorts of intelligence agencies during his years working for Yanukovych – the answer to the question of who Manafort may have been working for isn’t entirely obvious because he was probably a hot commodity. A very corrupt American advisor in Ukraine with ties to the Party of Regions. He was definitely working for the Party of Regions on some level. And eventually Trump. But who else? The CIA? EU intelligence agencies? Organized crime? European fascists? Ukrainian neo-Nazis? All of the above? It’s not like Manafort is choosy with his clients so it’s hard to rule anyone out. But we’re going to have to find out more about Manafort and who he was working for in Ukraine and elsewhere because we can’t really understand #TrumpRussia until we understand Paul Manafort.

    And given the hints from Ukrainian prosecutors last year that someone working with the Maidan protestors helped the snipers escape from Kiev, it seems like much of the final verdict on Manafort will depend on the resolution of what role he may or may not have case and what role he may have played. And it’s a mystery that can’t be solved without investigating the meaning of those hacked text messages and which deaths in Ukraine were the ‘blood’ in Andrea Manafort’s ‘blood money’ texts and more information about what is else known about the sniper attacks. Part of what made attribution of those attacks so difficult was that it made no sense for Yanukovych to do it, and two years later then we get hacked texts from Andrew Manafort about her dad being involved with what sounds like those attacks. It’s kind of amazing but here we are: the mystery of who was behind the Maidan sniper attacks, and who Paul Manafort may have been working for if he ended up playing a role, are now part important points in recent history for understanding #TrumpRussia.

    He probably wasn’t the best pick for campaign manager.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 6, 2017, 11:38 pm
  2. Great information, especially regarding WACL. The lustration laws have their roots in the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church and have a semi-religious character. It has an older history with the Ancient Romans, who, for example, used a lustration ritual to “purify” the followers of the Druids under their occupation. Their word ‘lustratio’ meant “purification (or a city or community) by ritual sacrifice”.

    Posted by Atlanta Bill | November 7, 2017, 2:14 pm
  3. Here’s a look at the growing number of obstacles Ukraine’s government is facing in its investigations of Paul Manafort over corruption charges. Investigations that go back to 2014 in some cases: First, there’s the obstacle of the US not actually cooperating with those investigations in Manafort:

    Reuters

    Ukraine prosecutor says puzzled by lack of U.S. help on Manafort case

    Matthias Williams, Pavel Polityuk
    November 14, 2017 / 1:57 PM

    KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine is puzzled by the lack of a U.S. response to requests it has made to question former Donald Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort as a witness over two cases involving misuse of Ukrainian state funds, the chief investigator said.

    Manafort was indicted last month in Washington on charges he denies ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agent of former pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions. The charges, some going back more than a decade, mention neither Trump nor his campaign.

    Serhii Horbatiuk, head of special investigations at the general prosecutor’s office, told Reuters Ukraine had sent requests in 2014 and 2015 to question representatives of a law firm and Manafort.

    He said Ukraine had received reassurances from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the requests would be met, but without result.

    “Of course it’s not normal,” Horbatiuk said in an interview at his office.

    “I would not say that we are upset, I would not say officially that we are upset, but it’s not clear why it is so,” he said. “Even the results they have got so far, we could have got them back in 2015 or 2016 with their help. But during these years there was no cooperation for unknown reasons.”

    In Washington, the FBI and the Department did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

    Horbatiuk is investigating two cases.

    One relates to the suspected illegal use of Ukrainian state funds by justice ministry officials to pay a U.S. law firm for a report used to justify the imprisonment of former prime minister and political rival Yulia Tymoshenko during Yanukovich’s rule.

    The second relates to a so-called ‘Black Ledger’ discovered after Yanukovich’s 2014 ouster by street protests, a book supposedly listing payments from a slush fund by Yanukovich’s Party of Regions to their associates, including Manafort.

    Yanukovich denies corruption accusations.

    Manafort denies all wrongdoing and in Ukraine he is at this stage only wanted as a witness.

    Horbatiuk said he had not been contacted for assistance by the team of Special Council Robert Mueller, who indicted Manafort during an investigation into alleged Russian efforts to swing the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

    Manafort’s attorney says his work for the Ukrainians ended in 2014, two years before he joined the Trump campaign.

    But the indictment sheds new light on the Ukrainian cases: the allegation that Manafort used offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay for the Tymoshenko report was news to Horbatiuk’s team, who thought the report had cost around $1 million.

    He will submit a new request for help to the U.S. within weeks.

    “It is important to combine our investigations so that we can obtain information to determine the origin of this money ($4 million),” he said.

    “And the general information allows us to say that the investigation could be promising provided that the law enforcement agencies of the United States and Ukraine cooperate in what we are interested in.”

    ———-

    “Ukraine prosecutor says puzzled by lack of U.S. help on Manafort case” by Matthias Williams, Pavel Polityuk; Reuters; 11/14/2017

    “Serhii Horbatiuk, head of special investigations at the general prosecutor’s office, told Reuters Ukraine had sent requests in 2014 and 2015 to question representatives of a law firm and Manafort.”

    So the head of special investigations at Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office, Serhii Horbatiuk, sent requests to question Manafort back in 2014 and 2015, but to no avail:


    He said Ukraine had received reassurances from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the requests would be met, but without result.

    “Of course it’s not normal,” Horbatiuk said in an interview at his office.

    “I would not say that we are upset, I would not say officially that we are upset, but it’s not clear why it is so,” he said. “Even the results they have got so far, we could have got them back in 2015 or 2016 with their help. But during these years there was no cooperation for unknown reasons.”

    And keep in mind that the “black ledger” scandal that abruptly ended Manafort’s role as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman didn’t happen until 2016. So the 2014 and 2015 requests to question Manafort were presumably over payments to Manafort’s lawfirm to produce a report used to justify the jailling of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko:


    Horbatiuk is investigating two cases.

    One relates to the suspected illegal use of Ukrainian state funds by justice ministry officials to pay a U.S. law firm for a report used to justify the imprisonment of former prime minister and political rival Yulia Tymoshenko during Yanukovich’s rule.

    The second relates to a so-called ‘Black Ledger’ discovered after Yanukovich’s 2014 ouster by street protests, a book supposedly listing payments from a slush fund by Yanukovich’s Party of Regions to their associates, including Manafort.

    Also note that the Associated Press confirmed this year that $1.2 million in “black ledger” payments to Manafort’s firm really did happen. So putting aside the serious potential mega-crime of Manafort’s involvement in the Maidan sniper attacks, the other more mundane corruption charges against Manafort appear to have teeth. And, obviously, it’s entirely possible that evidence related to the sniper attacks could be uncovered in either of these other investigations, so when they other investigations get blocked that’s effectively like blocking the investigation into Manafort’s potential role in the sniper attacks.

    So that’s one of the obstacles facing Ukraine’s investigation in Manafort. Here’s another one: when the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) got up and running in late 2015, the NABU wasn’t going to be be responsible for investigations that preceded its creation. But that all just changed thanks to new legislation that was passed that will transfer 3,500 corruption cases from the prosecutor’s office to the NABU. And as Serhii Horbatiuk of the prosecutor’s office warns, this move could effectively kill a large number of those investigations simply due to the NABU not having the staff required to carry out these investigations. The NABU itself also requested that this transfer not happen over manpower concerns. And the investigations that are getting transferred include the investigations into Manafort:

    Reuters

    Ukraine investigators fear corruption cases could get buried

    Matthias Williams, Pavel Polityuk
    November 16, 2017 / 10:51 AM / Updated

    KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian investigators fear corruption probes could get buried because the national anti-corruption bureau will soon be flooded by thousands of old cases and recently passed legislation could further hobble their work.

    Their comments spotlight Kiev’s patchy record on fighting corruption, which has delayed billions in aid from international donors who have supported Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan protests brought pro-Western forces to power.

    They come after the NABU anti-corruption bureau launched an investigation this week into an allied crime-fighting agency over extortion allegations.

    From Monday, 3,500 cases that were registered before December 2015 will be transferred from the prosecutor’s office to NABU, which include for example investigations that may pertain to former Donald Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.

    NABU began life in late 2015 and was given an exemption on investigating cases that opened before its creation, which expires on Monday. NABU wants the exemption extended, saying its 200-strong team of detectives cannot cope with the extra work.

    In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, NABU spokeswoman Svitlana Olifira said there was a risk that “all current investigations by (NABU) detectives may be blocked”.

    Serhii Horbatiuk, head of special investigations at the general prosecutor’s office, said the old cases would be sent to NABU to ensure no-one looks at them. His investigations include two cases related to Manafort’s work in Ukraine.

    “They will simply lie around and not be looked at,” he said in an interview at his office. “My opinion is that this is done deliberately to ensure that crimes linked to former senior officials are either simply not investigated, or obstacles are created that prevent it (the investigation).”

    “The restructuring (of law enforcement) is being used to ensure investigations don’t take place,” he added.

    Neither NABU nor Horbatiuk accused anyone by name of trying to block investigations.

    NABU appealed to President Petro Poroshenko to veto legislation passed in October which it believes will also harm investigations.

    The law, according to NABU, will put too strict limits on the time allowed for an investigation before it can be dismissed, while also making it more cumbersome for police to obtain permission from courts to open probes.

    “We urge the president to examine this bill thoroughly and to refrain from signing the current version,” Olifira said, saying the bill could “bring about the collapse of Ukraine’s whole law enforcement system.”

    ———-

    “Ukraine investigators fear corruption cases could get buried” by Matthias Williams, Pavel Polityuk; Reuters; 11/16/2017

    “From Monday, 3,500 cases that were registered before December 2015 will be transferred from the prosecutor’s office to NABU, which include for example investigations that may pertain to former Donald Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.”

    Yep, those investigations into Manafort that the general prosecutor’s office has been trying and failing to get US help on are now about to be shifted over to the NABU. Even those the NABU says it can’t handle all these new cases:


    NABU began life in late 2015 and was given an exemption on investigating cases that opened before its creation, which expires on Monday. NABU wants the exemption extended, saying its 200-strong team of detectives cannot cope with the extra work.

    In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, NABU spokeswoman Svitlana Olifira said there was a risk that “all current investigations by (NABU) detectives may be blocked”.

    “In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, NABU spokeswoman Svitlana Olifira said there was a risk that “all current investigations by (NABU) detectives may be blocked”

    There’s a risk that “all current investigations by (NABU) detectives may be blocked”. And that’s according to the NABU spokeswoman. And it’s a sentiment Serhii Horbatiuk, head of special investigations at the general prosecutor’s office, clearly agrees with:

    Serhii Horbatiuk, head of special investigations at the general prosecutor’s office, said the old cases would be sent to NABU to ensure no-one looks at them. His investigations include two cases related to Manafort’s work in Ukraine.

    “They will simply lie around and not be looked at,” he said in an interview at his office. “My opinion is that this is done deliberately to ensure that crimes linked to former senior officials are either simply not investigated, or obstacles are created that prevent it (the investigation).”

    “The restructuring (of law enforcement) is being used to ensure investigations don’t take place,” he added.

    And note that while Serhii Horbatiuk was previously complaining about a lack of US help on two investigations into Manafort that involve financial corruption, don’t forget that the general prosecutor’s office is also the office that’s been investigating the sniper attacks. For instance, he’s an article from 2016 about the discovery of the weapons used in the sniper attack. It’s special investigations department at the prosecutor general’s office who found those weapons:

    Ukrinform

    Weapons used against Euromaidan activists found in Kyiv pond

    14.07.2016 16:54

    Representatives of the Special Investigations Department at the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine have found the remains of a sniper rifle, used by officers of the Berkut riot police force against the Euromaidan activists.

    Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko posted this on his Facebook page.

    “Today, the officers of the Special Investigations Department at the Prosecutor General’s Office searched the apartments of those involved in taking Berkut officers out of Kyiv after bloody shootings on Maidan and subsequent destroying of their weapons. The elements of a sniper rifle and machine guns, which have been recently found in a pond, will become additional evidence at the trial,” he wrote.

    In turn, MP from the BPP faction Volodymyr Aryev said that the elements of weapons had been found in one of the ponds in a residential district in Kyiv. He added that the names of people, who have been searched today, were not disclosed in the interests of the investigation.

    ———-

    “Weapons used against Euromaidan activists found in Kyiv pond”; Ukrinform; 07/14/2016

    “Representatives of the Special Investigations Department at the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine have found the remains of a sniper rifle, used by officers of the Berkut riot police force against the Euromaidan activists.”

    So it raises the question of whether or not the sniper attack investigation is also getting transferred to the NABU. But, again, even if that’s not the case and it’s only the financial investigations into Manafort that are getting transferred to the NABU, those financial investigations could still provide key evidence in terms of who Manafort may have been secretly working with in the lead up to the 2014 Maidan protests.

    But there’s one more twist to all this: The NABU just launched an investigation into the prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Ukraine’s Anticorruption Bureau Investigating Prosecutor-General

    November 17, 2017 11:53 GMT

    KYIV — Ukrainian anticorruption investigators have opened a criminal case into suspected unlawful enrichment by the country’s powerful prosecutor-general, Yuriy Lutsenko.

    The case against Lutsenko was opened by the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) on October 30, after it was presented with an order from the Solomyansky District Court of Kyiv, NABU spokeswoman Svitlana Olifira told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service on November 17.

    Olifira said that no person in particular had spurred the court into action and that the pretrial investigation is ongoing.

    But Renat Kuzmin, the former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor-general under former President Viktor Yanukovych, wrote on Facebook that the case was opened at his written request.

    Yanuovych fled from Ukraine to Russia in February 2014 following months of Euromaidan street protests.

    Kuzmin followed in June 2014 after he became a suspect in the criminal probe of the unlawful arrest of Lutsenko in 2010 when he was an opposition politician.

    “Pursuant to my statement, NABU registered the case and began a criminal investigation into Lutsenko’s illegal enrichment,” Kuzmin said in a post that included a copy of his letter to NABU.

    NABU is an independent investigative body created to stamp out entrenched corruption among Ukraine’s public servants.

    Lutsenko had no legal experience prior to taking the job as head of the Prosecutor-General’s Office in May 2016.

    He was the personal choice of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

    Parliament had to pass a law removing a requirement that only a person with a legal background could fill the post before Lutsenko was appointed.

    ———-

    “Ukraine’s Anticorruption Bureau Investigating Prosecutor-General”; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 11/17/2017

    “The case against Lutsenko was opened by the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) on October 30, after it was presented with an order from the Solomyansky District Court of Kyiv, NABU spokeswoman Svitlana Olifira told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service on November 17.”

    So on top of the 3,500 new cases transferred from the prosecutor general’s office to the NABU, the NABU is also going to be investigating the prosecutor general. It’s quite a twist. And while the NABU is saying that there’s no person in particular who got this probe launched against Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor-general under Viktor Yanukovych is claiming that he is actually the person who spurred this into action:


    Olifira said that no person in particular had spurred the court into action and that the pretrial investigation is ongoing.

    But Renat Kuzmin, the former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor-general under former President Viktor Yanukovych, wrote on Facebook that the case was opened at his written request.

    Yanuovych fled from Ukraine to Russia in February 2014 following months of Euromaidan street protests.

    Kuzmin followed in June 2014 after he became a suspect in the criminal probe of the unlawful arrest of Lutsenko in 2010 when he was an opposition politician.

    “Pursuant to my statement, NABU registered the case and began a criminal investigation into Lutsenko’s illegal enrichment,” Kuzmin said in a post that included a copy of his letter to NABU.

    So the investigation into Lutsenko was prompted by a guy who fled to Russia in 2014?! Wow, now that’s a twist. Adding to the twist is that that Renat Kuzmin was actually the person in charge of the case against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the same case that Paul Manafort’s firm is charged with fueling by producing a report justifying Tymoshenko’s jailing.

    But perhaps it’s not much of a twist. According the NABU, Renat Kuzmin frequently makes requests for investigations and the NABU is obligated to open an investigation or Kuzmin will take them to court:

    112.UA

    Anti-Corruption Bureau investigates illicit enrichment of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General

    Former Deputy Prosecutor General, himself on the wanted list as a suspect of crimes, says the investigation is started on his request
    11:26, 17 November 2017

    The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) started criminal proceedings on the possible illicit enrichment of Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko, as NABU speaker Svitlana Olifira says, the Ukrainian News reports.

    Svitlana Olifira says the investigation commenced on October 30 due to the court decision to look into a possible bribe.

    Former Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin writes on his Facebook that the investigation started after his inquiry. The NABU told INSIDER that Kuzmin submits tons of such inquiries, and when the Bureau doesn’t grant them, he goes to court, which makes the Bureau start an investigation.

    Kuzmin was the one who advocated for imprisoning Lutsenko in the past. In 2012, the ECHR found that imprisoning Lutsenko contradicted human rights, and stated that the Ukrainian government was to compensate Lutsenko 15.00 euro for moral damage.


    ———-

    “Anti-Corruption Bureau investigates illicit enrichment of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General”; 112.UA; 11/17/2017

    “Former Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin writes on his Facebook that the investigation started after his inquiry. The NABU told INSIDER that Kuzmin submits tons of such inquiries, and when the Bureau doesn’t grant them, he goes to court, which makes the Bureau start an investigation.

    So based on the comments from the NABU it sounds like this might just be routine investigation they are obligated to conduct. Although it would be interesting to know if this was the fist time since Kuzmin fled the country that he was able to successfully get one of his requests turned into an actual probe.

    Also keep in mind that it was Lutsenko who made the ominous public warning to the Ukrainian public about the sniper attack and the discovery of the weapons in the lake: “We found it with a large number of automatic rifles on the bottom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a single group, whose leader is one of the targets of our investigation. Unfortunately, this man who, according to our version, upon the orders of [former Interior Minister Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the “black hundred” flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, himself, was with us on the Maidan.” So Lutsenko has already demonstrated a willingness to ‘go there’ and hint to the public that his investigators have discover something very shocking in relation to the sniper attacks.

    Given that, and given the broader context of a larger move by the Ukrainian legislature to move a large number of investigations out of the prosecutor general’s office to the NABU where these cases are expected to die from a lack of manpower, you have to wonder if we’re about to see a lot of Ukrainian corruption cases suddenly fade away. Including the various investigations into Paul Manafort.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 17, 2017, 3:42 pm
  4. Another indictment, another twist. That’s how the Mueller probe has been operating of late. And in the latest indictment we get the kind of twist that actually helps clarify one of the key points of the whole situation in Ukraine that’s been largely ignored in the years since the conflict broke out.

    So what was the twist? There’s actually a lot of twists. The initial twist is that Paul Manafort reportedly hired two lobbying firms to pay former European leaders to lobbying foreign governments on behalf of Ukraine regarding the negotiations between Ukraine and the EU over the proposed trade union. It was the collapse of those talks that precipitated the Maidan protests and downfall of the Yanukovych government in 2014 and the subsequent outbreak of civil war.

    The group of former European leaders hired by Manafort was secretly paid $2.5 million via various

    One of the lobbying firms was a political strategy firm Mercury Public Affairs. The second firm was the Podesta Group. And, yes, the Podesta Group’s Tony Podesta is indeed the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta whose emails were hacked and released. And, like Manafort, Tony Podesta had also long had the Yanukovych government as a client.

    Additionally, the Podesta Group admitted that it had “arranged meetings and media opportunities” for visiting European leaders regarding Ukraine, starting in 2012, including for Mr. Gusenbauer, Mr. Prodi and two former presidents, Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine. So this was the kind of diplomatic outreach effort that involved Viktor Yushchenko, meaning it was an effort with trans-partisan support in Ukraine.

    According to the Mueller indictment, the lobbying effort was led by “Politican A”. That’s now confirmed to be Alfred Gusenbauer, who was Austria’s chancellor in 2007 and 2008. Romano Prodi, Italy’s prime minister between 1996 and 1998, and again from 2006 to 2008, was also part of the effort. Along with Aleksander Kwasniewski, president of Poland from 1995 to 2005, and Patrick Cox of Ireland who is a former president of the European Parliament. A theme with this group is that they had relatively friendly relations with the Kremlin and were left-leaning. And apparently hired by right-wing ‘fixer’ Paul Manafort working with the Podesta Group. So it was a diplomatic effort that wasn’t just trans-partisan with respect to the Ukrainian elements involved.

    And it makes sense that it would be left-leaning European politicians selected for this operation since they come for a political orientation that historically had friendlier relations with the Soviet Union. But as we’ll see, they met with groups like Republicans in the US Congress. And that raises the question of the extent to which this group was acting as negotiators between decision-makers in the West and the Kremlin. In other words, did this group represent a sort of middle-man between Russia and the West in terms of negotiating the future of Ukraine?

    And who was it that was sponsoring the efforts of Paul Manafort’s lobbing firm and the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs, and the delegation of politicians? We don’t know quite yet. But one hint might be found in the nickname for the group of European ex-politician lobbyists: the “Hapsburg Group”. It’s assumed that the “Hapsburg” name is a reference to Gusenbauer and Austria’s history with the Habsburg empire. But as we’ll see, there’s probably more that name since Germany’s Martin Schulz – leader of the center-left SPD – appears to have a role in all of this too. While he was president of the European Parliament.

    So, to summarize, the Mueller indictment is asserting that Manafort hired Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group to hire these former politicians to lobby on behalf of the government of Ukraine. Specifically, to lobby in relation to the negotiations over the EU-Ukraine trade union. That’s the understanding from the Mueller indictment. Except all of the politicians totally deny it. Although their denials vary:

    * Gusenbauer said that he had been “remunerated” for his work on behalf of Ukraine, but he did not say by whom. But he did assert that he had never worked for Mr. Yanukovych and that he had only met Mr. Manafort two or three times. But he did not deny that he had received money from an “American or English company.”

    * Prodi claimed to have been paid by Gusenbauer, but it was a result of the “normal private relations I had with him,” according to Prodi, but “not any money from external sources.” Prodi added: “I tell you I have never been paid from any lobby group in America.”

    * Kwasniewski said, “I did meet Manafort two or three times during our mission in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013, but that’s it. At the time, he was an adviser to President Yanukovych, whom I also met, and it was only natural that our paths had to cross a couple of times.” He added: “The last time I saw Manafort was probably around the fall of 2013. He never paid us. I never had any financial relationship with him, and I never heard of the Hapsburg Group.”

    * Cox said that he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group, had never been paid by anyone for his efforts in Ukraine, and had had no dealings with Mr. Manafort.

    So all four of these former politicians reportedly secretly hired by Paul Manafort insist that, no, they either have never met Manafort or met him a few times but had nothing to do with him otherwise.

    But there was an additional part of their explanation that adds a potentially significant new twist that could reveal an important context for who Paul Manafort was actually working for during his period of consulting the Yankovych government: According to both Andrew Kwasniewski and Patrick Cox, they were engaged in these diplomatic endeavors, without pay, to try to secure the release of the Ukrainian political detainees that the EU demanded be released as part of the terms of the proposed EU-Ukraine trade pact. And the man who invited them to do this was Martin Schultz, head of Germany’s SPD and the head of the European parliament at the time.

    So we have a mysterious diplomatic initiative designed to convince governments that Ukraine deserves to be allowed into a trade pact with the EU. The four diplomats vehemently deny Paul Manafort had anything to do with it, but two of them assert that it was Martin Schulz, then president of the EU parliament, who invited them to do it.

    This is potentially quite significant in regards to Manafort because let’s not forget that one of the biggest mysteries swirling around Manafort at this point is why his daughter’s hacked text messages indicated that he was somehow behind the Maidan sniper massacre. And that sniper massacre was critical in forcing Yanukovych, Manafort’s client, from power. So why would Paul Manafort have played a role in those sniper attacks unless he was ultimately working for a client who wanted to see Yankovych out of power? That’s been a significant question surrounding Manafort ever since those hacked texts were released and now we learn that a secret lobbying crew, the “Hapsburg Group”, was possibly financed by Manafort and conducting negotiations with the blessing of the head of the SPD who was also the head of the European Parliament at the time. This doesn’t mean Manafort arranged the sniper massacre at the behest of EU interests, but it makes such a scenario fit the known facts better. Which is pretty chilling.

    And this doesn’t mean the European parliament itself was behind the approval Schulz was granting. It could have been some other power faction who Schulz is also associated with. Perhaps a predominantly German faction? Perhaps a few Habsburgs were involved? Who knows. But it would help explain the “Hapsburg Group” name if Schulz represented a German power faction that was very interested in getting Ukraine into that trade agreement. Nicknaming this the “Hapsburg Group” never made a lot of sense if it was simply a reference to Gusenbauer being from Austria.

    So who was Manafort actually working for when those Maidan sniper attacks took place? Yanukovych or the forces behind the Hapsburg Group? That’s now an open question in this situation now that we are getting hints that Manafort had other EU clients that wanted to get Ukraine into the EU. And that’s why this Hapsburg Group revelation is quite a twist regarding Manafort and the sniper attacks. Manafort is a multifaceted mercenary selling out to multiple sides and that could turn out to be a critical fact in this investigation.

    Now why was all of this part of a Mueller indictment? Well, one of the governments lobbied by the Hapsburg Group was the US. Specifically, a collection of Republican congressmen involved with foreign affairs. But they were never told that these former European leaders were lobbyists hired by Manafort. Instead, they were portrayed as independent voices who were independently assessing how far Ukraine had come in meeting the various obligations the EU had laid down in order to let Ukraine form a trade union with the EU. That appears to be where the Mueller indictment comes in: Manafort was arranging gatherings that involved this fundamental misrepresentation of fact while lobbying the US government. In other words, Mueller’s indictment describes the Hapsburg group’s activities as deceptive lobbying conspiracy against the US.

    According to the Mueller indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, “Foreign Politician A” (Gusenbauer) led a group that “lobbied United States Members of Congress, officials in the executive branch, and their staffs” in coordination with Manafort and Gates in 2013. And Gusenbauer has indeed confirmed that he had met with American politicians around that time But he also claims to have been unaware of any links to Manafort. Gusenbauer did say he had met Manafort previously — once in Europe and once in the United States — but it was “just for a coffee.”

    Records also show Romano Prodi did indeed meet with a delegation of Republican congressmen in 2013, but Prodi insists that he did not believe he had been paid by Manafort and that he had “never been paid from any lobby group in America.”

    So we appear to have a collection of strong denials along with non-denial denials from the figures at the heart of this indictment.

    Additionally, Gusenbauer asserts that he was part of a “noble” effort to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union. As Gusenbauer puts it. “I was not employed by Mr. Yanukovych’s government…I was, in the European, and American and general interest, working for an association agreement between Ukraine and Europe.” And that appears to be the general take on the situation from all four of the hired politicians: they were doing this in the interest of Europe. And, from the perspective of those who wanted this trade pact wit Ukraine, that was indeed the case. They were lobbying to get Ukraine into a trade pact with the EU. It’s one of the key facts that all sides can agree on. And Paul Manafort apparently helped financed this. So now that we learn that Paul Manafort may have been working for multiple clients during his time in Ukraine, who was he really working for? That’s a big new question raised by the Hapsburg Group indictment:

    The New York Times

    European Ex-Officials Deny Being Paid by Manafort to Lobby for Ukraine

    By STEVEN ERLANGER and JASON HOROWITZ
    FEB. 24, 2018

    BRUSSELS — Former European leaders who tried to bring Ukraine closer to Europe before a 2014 uprising there reacted with shock on Saturday after a federal indictment accused Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, of secretly paying former European officials some two million euros in 2012 and 2013 to lobby on the country’s behalf.

    Ukraine at the time was led by Viktor F. Yanukovych, who first agreed to closer ties to Europe and then reneged under Russian pressure and was toppled in the uprising.

    The indictment, released on Friday by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election in the United States, did not name the former officials, but it set off furious speculation about who they might be.

    The indictment says the lobbying effort was managed by a former chancellor of a European country, identified as “Foreign Politician A,” in coordination with Mr. Manafort.

    On Saturday, Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy, said in an interview that he and an ex-chancellor of Austria, Alfred Gusenbauer, had worked to try to bring Ukraine and the European Union closer together.

    But Mr. Prodi said the funds he had been paid by Mr. Gusenbauer did not come, to his knowledge, from Mr. Manafort.

    The compensation from Mr. Gusenbauer was a result of the “normal private relations I had with him,” Mr. Prodi said, but “not any money from external sources.” He added: “I tell you I have never been paid from any lobby group in America.”

    In a statement to the BBC, Mr. Gusenbauer, who led Austria from January 2007 to December 2008, denied any involvement in Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine but acknowledged that he had met him twice and talked to European and American politicians about Ukraine, as Mr. Prodi had also done.

    “I always had the point of view that it was important to move Ukraine closer to Europe,” Mr. Gusenbauer told the BBC. “It would have been extremely positive if Ukraine could have agreed” to closer ties, he said. “I was talking to E.U. and U.S. politicians to make that point clear.”

    Mr. Gusenbauer added: “I stopped this activity when I had the impression that Ukraine was moving in the wrong direction.”

    In an interview on Saturday with the Austrian Press Agency, Mr. Gusenbauer said that he had been “remunerated” for his work on behalf of Ukraine, but he did not say by whom. He added that he had never worked for Mr. Yanukovych and that he had only met Mr. Manafort two or three times.

    Mr. Gusenbauer met several members of Congress in June 2013 on behalf of Ukraine, according to a federal filing last year by Mercury Public Affairs, a political strategy group that Mr. Manafort had hired.

    Mr. Prodi recalled meeting members of Congress interested in Ukraine, but said he had not heard of Mercury. Asked who scheduled the meetings in Washington, Mr. Prodi said, “I imagine it was Gusenbauer.”

    A second Washington lobbying firm hired by Mr. Manafort, the Podesta Group, also said last year that it had “arranged meetings and media opportunities” for visiting European leaders regarding Ukraine, starting in 2012, including for Mr. Gusenbauer, Mr. Prodi and two former presidents, Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine.

    Mr. Manafort did not inform the Washington lobbyists with whom they worked that the European politicians were being paid for their efforts, according to people familiar with the work done by the two firms, who said the lobbyists had presented the European politicians as unbiased validators of Mr. Yanukovych’s efforts.

    The group of senior former politicians, according to the indictment, was informally called the Hapsburg Group, after the Austro-Hungarian dynasty, the Habsburgs. The plan, according to the indictment, was for the group to “appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.”.

    In the interview on Saturday, Mr. Prodi said that he had never heard of any Hapsburg Group. “It was Gusenbauer heading the group; we did all our efforts to have peace in Ukraine,” Mr. Prodi said, saying that the group of “experts and former politicians” had met at several conferences but soon disbanded when it became clear that “a stronger relationship with the European Union was impossible.”

    In 2012 and 2013, Mr. Yanukovych was trying to negotiate an “association agreement” with the European Union, which was made difficult by his jailing of political opponents, like Yulia V. Tymoshenko, Valery Ivashchenko and Yuri V. Lutsenko in 2011 and 2012.

    European officials were keen to secure the agreement, and tried to get Mr. Yanukovych to release the detainees, arguing that their captivity was damaging his reputation and making closer ties to Brussels hard to swallow.

    Mr. Prodi said that Mr. Gusenbauer was the “coordinator” of a group of like-minded liberal and center-left politicians on the issue.

    Mr. Kwasniewski and Patrick Cox of Ireland, a former president of the European Parliament, said that they were working at the suggestion of the parliament’s president at the time, Martin Schulz of Germany, to get Mr. Yanukovych to release political opponents from jail to improve his standing with the Europeans as they debated the association agreement.

    Asked if the money Mr. Gusenbauer received came from Mr. Manafort, Mr. Prodi seemed skeptical but said that he didn’t know. “Go ask Gusenbauer,” he said, adding that he thought that it was more likely that the money came from European businessmen interested in keeping Europe and Ukraine close.

    In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Cox said he had worked with Mr. Kwasniewski, Mr. Schulz and others to try to convince Mr. Yanukovych to release the jailed political opponents.

    Mr. Cox said that he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group, had never been paid by anyone for his efforts in Ukraine, and had had no dealings with Mr. Manafort. But in 2012, he said, he had been invited by Mr. Schultz to go to Ukraine with Mr. Kwasniewski, the first of some 25 trips, all done “pro bono,” Mr. Cox said, to try to get the detainees released.

    “The view in Western capitals was that these were the victims of selective justice,” Mr. Cox said. After meetings with Mr. Yanukovych and prosecutors, Mr. Cox and Mr. Kwasniewski were successful in obtaining the release of Mr. Ivashchenko and Mr. Lutsenko, who is now Ukraine’s prosecutor-general.

    “We were not successful with Yulia Tymoshenko,” who was Mr. Yanukovych’s prime political opponent at the time, Mr. Cox said. “But we did ensure that Charité hospital in Berlin would have access to her in prison and she not be subject to further trials,” he added.

    Mr. Cox made clear his distaste for Mr. Yanukovych, adding: “I wouldn’t lobby for him.”

    In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Kwasniewski said, “I did meet Manafort two or three times during our mission in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013, but that’s it. At the time, he was an adviser to President Yanukovych, whom I also met, and it was only natural that our paths had to cross a couple of times.”

    He added: “The last time I saw Manafort was probably around the fall of 2013. He never paid us. I never had any financial relationship with him, and I never heard of the Hapsburg Group.”

    The release of some of the detainees did help Ukraine’s relationship with Brussels, but then Mr. Yanukovych rejected the association agreement, in favor of a free-trade relationship with Russia.

    That, in turn, started the demonstrations that led to Mr. Yanukovych’s downfall, the Russian seizure of Crimea and the current conflict in eastern Ukraine.

    ———-

    “European Ex-Officials Deny Being Paid by Manafort to Lobby for Ukraine” by STEVEN ERLANGER and JASON HOROWITZ; The New York Times; 02/24/2018

    “The indictment, released on Friday by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election in the United States, did not name the former officials, but it set off furious speculation about who they might be.”

    Yes, the speculation of the identities of these unnamed former European officials was indeed furious. And short-lived, because it was pretty clear who these people worth within a day after Romano Prodi, the former prime minister of Italy, admitted in an interview that he and Alfred Gusenbauer, were indeed working on exactly the kind of diplomatic initiative described in the indictment:


    The indictment says the lobbying effort was managed by a former chancellor of a European country, identified as “Foreign Politician A,” in coordination with Mr. Manafort.

    On Saturday, Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy, said in an interview that he and an ex-chancellor of Austria, Alfred Gusenbauer, had worked to try to bring Ukraine and the European Union closer together.

    And this speculation was butressed by official documents. Mercury Public Affairs, a political strategy group hired by Manafort, filed last year that it sent Mr. Gusenbauer to meet several members of Congress in mid 2013. And Prodi admitted to recalling such a meeting. Although he claimed to know nothing about Mercury:


    Mr. Gusenbauer met several members of Congress in June 2013 on behalf of Ukraine, according to a federal filing last year by Mercury Public Affairs, a political strategy group that Mr. Manafort had hired.

    Mr. Prodi recalled meeting members of Congress interested in Ukraine, but said he had not heard of Mercury. Asked who scheduled the meetings in Washington, Mr. Prodi said, “I imagine it was Gusenbauer.”

    And a second lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, also filed last year that it “arranged meetings and media opportunities” for visiting European leaders starting in 2012. And this included Gusenbauer, Prodi, Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine:


    A second Washington lobbying firm hired by Mr. Manafort, the Podesta Group, also said last year that it had “arranged meetings and media opportunities” for visiting European leaders regarding Ukraine, starting in 2012, including for Mr. Gusenbauer, Mr. Prodi and two former presidents, Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine.

    Keep in mind that Viktor A. Yushchenko is an arch rival of Viktor Yanukovych was a leader of the political forces in Ukraine that led the Maidan protests and Yanukovych’s eventual overthrow. So to learn that Yushchenko was part of this effort is an important fact for establishing that this diplomatic effort Manafort was leading had broad support within Ukraine’s political establishment.

    So these meetings in 2012 and 2013 by two lobbying firms hired by Manafort are part of the public record.

    But the speculation has shifted to who knew what when. Because all of these former officials are denying they had anything to do with Paul Manafort, and certainly weren’t paid by him for their efforts. Instead, they argue, this was a good faith effort to bring Ukraine into the EU because they felt that was in Europe’s interest:


    But Mr. Prodi said the funds he had been paid by Mr. Gusenbauer did not come, to his knowledge, from Mr. Manafort.

    The compensation from Mr. Gusenbauer was a result of the “normal private relations I had with him,” Mr. Prodi said, but “not any money from external sources.” He added: “I tell you I have never been paid from any lobby group in America.”

    In a statement to the BBC, Mr. Gusenbauer, who led Austria from January 2007 to December 2008, denied any involvement in Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine but acknowledged that he had met him twice and talked to European and American politicians about Ukraine, as Mr. Prodi had also done.

    “I always had the point of view that it was important to move Ukraine closer to Europe,” Mr. Gusenbauer told the BBC. “It would have been extremely positive if Ukraine could have agreed” to closer ties, he said. “I was talking to E.U. and U.S. politicians to make that point clear.”

    Mr. Gusenbauer added: “I stopped this activity when I had the impression that Ukraine was moving in the wrong direction.”

    In an interview on Saturday with the Austrian Press Agency, Mr. Gusenbauer said that he had been “remunerated” for his work on behalf of Ukraine, but he did not say by whom. He added that he had never worked for Mr. Yanukovych and that he had only met Mr. Manafort two or three times.

    In the interview on Saturday, Mr. Prodi said that he had never heard of any Hapsburg Group. “It was Gusenbauer heading the group; we did all our efforts to have peace in Ukraine,” Mr. Piodi said, saying that the group of “experts and former politicians” had met at several conferences but soon disbanded when it became clear that “a stronger relationship with the European Union was impossible.”

    “In an interview on Saturday with the Austrian Press Agency, Mr. Gusenbauer said that he had been “remunerated” for his work on behalf of Ukraine, but he did not say by whom. He added that he had never worked for Mr. Yanukovych and that he had only met Mr. Manafort two or three times.”

    Note that Gusenbauer did admit to be paid by “an American or English company”.

    So we have documents that make it clear these meetings with US congressmen happened involving these individuals. And Gusenbauer admits to being paid by “an American or English” firm. But he’s sticking to the idea that Manafort had nothing to do with this. And Prodi acknowledges the diplomatic effort, but claims that he thought Gusenbauer was leading it, and also that he never heard of the nickname “the Hapsburg Group”.

    And then there’s the explanations from Andrew Kwasniewski of Poland and Patrick Cox of Ireland. They appeared to be more focused on the issue of getting several political prisoners released since they was one of the EU demands for the trade agreement. And they both assert that they were doing this work for free and at the behest of Martin Schulz, then the president of the EU parliament. The way Cox puts it, he and Kwasniewski and Schulz were basically lobbying Yanukovych to release jailed political prisoners. So based on that characterization the Hapsburg Group sounds much more like a European lobbying effort lobbying both the US and Ukraine and trying to make sure the deal happens:


    In 2012 and 2013, Mr. Yanukovych was trying to negotiate an “association agreement” with the European Union, which was made difficult by his jailing of political opponents, like Yulia V. Tymoshenko, Valery Ivashchenko and Yuri V. Lutsenko in 2011 and 2012.

    European officials were keen to secure the agreement, and tried to get Mr. Yanukovych to release the detainees, arguing that their captivity was damaging his reputation and making closer ties to Brussels hard to swallow.

    Mr. Prodi said that Mr. Gusenbauer was the “coordinator” of a group of like-minded liberal and center-left politicians on the issue.

    Mr. Kwasniewski and Patrick Cox of Ireland, a former president of the European Parliament, said that they were working at the suggestion of the parliament’s president at the time, Martin Schulz of Germany, to get Mr. Yanukovych to release political opponents from jail to improve his standing with the Europeans as they debated the association agreement.

    Asked if the money Mr. Gusenbauer received came from Mr. Manafort, Mr. Prodi seemed skeptical but said that he didn’t know. “Go ask Gusenbauer,” he said, adding that he thought that it was more likely that the money came from European businessmen interested in keeping Europe and Ukraine close.

    In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Cox said he had worked with Mr. Kwasniewski, Mr. Schulz and others to try to convince Mr. Yanukovych to release the jailed political opponents.

    Mr. Cox said that he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group, had never been paid by anyone for his efforts in Ukraine, and had had no dealings with Mr. Manafort. But in 2012, he said, he had been invited by Mr. Schultz to go to Ukraine with Mr. Kwasniewski, the first of some 25 trips, all done “pro bono,” Mr. Cox said, to try to get the detainees released.

    Cox goes on to make it clear that he would never lobby on behalf of the Yanukovych government:


    “The view in Western capitals was that these were the victims of selective justice,” Mr. Cox said. After meetings with Mr. Yanukovych and prosecutors, Mr. Cox and Mr. Kwasniewski were successful in obtaining the release of Mr. Ivashchenko and Mr. Lutsenko, who is now Ukraine’s prosecutor-general.

    “We were not successful with Yulia Tymoshenko,” who was Mr. Yanukovych’s prime political opponent at the time, Mr. Cox said. “But we did ensure that Charité hospital in Berlin would have access to her in prison and she not be subject to further trials,” he added.

    Mr. Cox made clear his distaste for Mr. Yanukovych, adding: “I wouldn’t lobby for him.”

    So Cox is making it clear: he felt he was lobbying on behalf of European interests. And at the behest of Martin Schulz. Not for Paul Manafort and not for the Yanukovych government.

    And while Mr. Kwasniewski of Poland admits to meeting Manafort in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013, he assert that he was never paid by Manafort and he has never heard of the Hapsburg Group:


    In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Kwasniewski said, “I did meet Manafort two or three times during our mission in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013, but that’s it. At the time, he was an adviser to President Yanukovych, whom I also met, and it was only natural that our paths had to cross a couple of times.”

    He added: “The last time I saw Manafort was probably around the fall of 2013. He never paid us. I never had any financial relationship with him, and I never heard of the Hapsburg Group.”

    And according to the Mueller indictment, when this lobbying effort came to the US, it was under the guise of these former European politicians being unbiased validators of Mr. Yanukovych’s efforts to meet the EU demands over the trade union. The plan, according to the indictment, was for the group to “appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.”:


    Mr. Manafort did not inform the Washington lobbyists with whom they worked that the European politicians were being paid for their efforts, according to people familiar with the work done by the two firms, who said the lobbyists had presented the European politicians as unbiased validators of Mr. Yanukovych’s efforts.

    The group of senior former politicians, according to the indictment, was informally called the Hapsburg Group, after the Austro-Hungarian dynasty, the Habsburgs. The plan, according to the indictment, was for the group to “appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.”.

    So that’s what we know so far about the Hapsburg Group chapter of this #TrumpRussia investigation. And, again, it’s a chapter that raises a significant question when it comes to Paul Manafort and his work in Ukraine: who was he actually working for? Was he quietly hired by a group associated with Martin Schulz to effectively lobby Yanukovych? If so, was that group the EU – with Schulz acting as president of the EU parliament – or might Schulz have been representing a smaller group of interests? German interests perhaps? Habsburg dynasty interests in concert with other powerful European private interests perhaps?

    But there’s another key aspect of the entire saga around the conflict in Ukraine that this Hapsburg Group affair does an excellent job highlighting: the Viktor Yanukovych government was heavily in favor of joining the EU trade agreement until the very last minute when he backed out. That’s why Paul Manafort was hired to lead this secret diplomatic initiative. Yes, there’s a question as to whether or not Manafort was also hired by or secretly working with EU elements during this period, but it’s clear that the Ukrainian government really was trying to make this trade pact a reality until the last minute reversal.

    And as the following article from December of 2013 – a month after the deal collapsed – makes clear, there were a number of reasons for the collapse of the deal and those reasons did NOT include a lack of desire on Yanukovych’s part to make the deal happen. The Kremlin clearly played a significant role in that last minute reversal with a carrot and stick approach. And the demands for the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine Yanukovych had jailed, was another key sticking point. Yanukovych reportedly fears her intensely.

    But the article focuses on another key under-recognized factor that led to Yanukovych’s pull out of the deal and it’s a factor that actually indicates he would have preferred to fulfill the deal eventually: the EU and IMF gave Ukraine a crappy really deal. Part of the agreement was that the Ukraine get its economy up to EU standards which would have been wildly expensive. And the only help the EU was offering was loans. Inadequate loans. Some from the IMF. It was a deal that was quite possibly going to lead to the kind of austerity nightmare that the EU and IMF is now known to enforce with glee.

    Also note that the need to negotiate with the IMF over this deal would be one of the reasons why the Hapsburg Group would have needed to meet with US congressmen. The IMF is largely a US-directed institution. But such negotiations, if they happened, clearly didn’t persuade the IMF to offer the kind of assurances needed to gain Yanukovych’s confidence. And without such assurances it’s not hard to see why he wouldn’t have had much confidence in the deal. The EU was in full-on mean-mode in 2013.

    So if the EU and IMF would have simply offered Ukraine a better deal, one that didn’t likely involve intense austerity for Ukraine, Ukraine would have probably accepted the deal and this current nightmare in Ukraine may have been avoided. It’s a reminder that brutal austerity isn’t just a bad look for the EU. It’s bad policy:

    Reuters

    Special Report: Why Ukraine spurned the EU and embraced Russia

    Elizabeth Piper
    December 19, 2013 / 5:03 AM

    KIEV (Reuters) – On September 4, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich called a meeting of his political party for the first time in three years, summoning members to an old Soviet-era cinema called Zoryany in Kiev.

    For three hours Yanukovich cajoled and bullied anyone who pushed for Ukraine to have closer ties to Russia. A handful of deputies from his Party of Regions complained that their businesses in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east would suffer if Yanukovich didn’t agree to closer ties with Russia. That set him off.

    “Forget about it … forever!” he shouted at them, according to people who attended the meeting. Instead the president argued for an agreement to deepen trade and other cooperation with the European Union.

    Some deputies implored him to change his mind, people who attended the meeting told Reuters. Businessmen warned that a deal with the EU would provoke Russia – Ukraine’s former master in Soviet times – into toughening an economic blockade on Ukrainian goods. Yanukovich stood firm.

    “We will pursue integration with Europe,” he barked back, according to three people who attended the meeting. He seemed dead set on looking west.

    Less than three months later Yanukovich spurned the EU, embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin and struck a deal on December 17 for a bailout of his country. Russia will invest $15 billion in Ukraine’s government debt and reduce by about a third the price that Naftogaz, Ukraine’s national energy company, pays for Russian gas.

    It is not clear what Yanukovich agreed to give Russia in return, but two sources close to him said he may have had to surrender some control over Ukraine’s gas pipeline network.

    What caused the U-turn by the leadership of a country of 46 million people that occupies a strategic position between the EU and Russia?

    Public and private arm-twisting by Putin, including threats to Ukraine’s economy and Yanukovich’s political future, played a significant part. But the unwillingness of the EU and International Monetary Fund to be flexible in their demands of Ukraine also had an effect, making them less attractive partners.

    And amid this international tug-of-war, Yanukovich’s personal antipathy towards his jailed political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, was a factor, according to Volodymyr Oliynyk, an ally of Yanukovich and a prominent member of the ruling party. The EU accused Ukraine of treating Tymoshenko unfairly – to the annoyance of Yanukovich, according to his supporters and one of her lawyers.

    The upshot is that Yanukovich, 63, has split his party and his country. Some leading party officials have deserted him. His hopes of re-election in 2015 – if there is a free and fair vote – look weak.

    Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, demanding he step down and the country pursue closer links with the EU. Yanukovich, who has been increasingly cut off in his sprawling residence outside Kiev and distant even from some of his oldest friends, did not respond to requests for comment.

    PROUD EGO

    Risen from humble roots, Yanukovich likes to be treated with respect and as an equal, a characteristic that has informed much of his reluctance to join the customs union of former Soviet states that Putin wants to create.

    Colleagues describe the burly leader as an intuitive politician who cannot abide being patronized. Inna Bohoslovska, a member of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions until last month, said Yanukovich made clear at the cinema meeting his dislike of Russia treating Ukraine as second rate.

    “He told us Russia was not fit for talks, Russia did not consider Ukraine to be an equal partner, that it tried to force us to act by its own rules, that Russia does not act in Ukraine’s best interests in any negotiations, and therefore there can be no talk of having negotiations with Russia,” she said.

    Yanukovich felt he was better treated by EU officials, two party members said, despite finding it hard to grasp the complexity of EU bureaucracy. Hailing from Ukraine’s industrial east, Yanukovich also seemed the perfect man to persuade Ukraine’s pro-Russian eastern regions to agree to closer ties with Europe.

    “That a president from the east would bring Ukraine into Europe was the ideal combination for us. We were willing to do anything,” said David Zhvaniya, a former member of the Party of Regions who helped lead efforts to prepare Ukraine for deeper cooperation with the EU.

    Now deeply disillusioned, Zhvaniya feels misled by Yanukovich: “He tricked us all … It was a complete, utter lie.” He accuses Yanukovich of acting like a tsar.

    Others say Yanukovich’s desire to forge closer links with the EU was genuine, but that he became dismayed when he felt the EU failed to acknowledge the scale of the financial difficulties he would face if he chose Brussels over Moscow.

    Yanukovich estimated that he needed $160 billion over three years to make up for the trade Ukraine stood to lose with Russia, and to help cushion the pain from reforms the EU was demanding. The EU refused to give such a sum, which it said was exaggerated and unjustified.

    The EU offered 610 million euros ($839 million) immediately. EU officials said increased trade, combined with various aid and financing programs, might go some way to providing Kiev with the investment it needed.

    An EU source said Ukraine could have been in line to receive at least 19 billion euros in EU loans and grants over the next seven years if it had signed a trade and cooperation agreement and reached a deal with the IMF. But that sum was not mentioned to Ukraine officials during negotiations, said the source.

    To Ukraine, there seemed little prospect of getting the EU, already struggling to help its indebted members, to offer a better deal than its original offer.

    Oliynyk, who is Ukraine’s permanent representative for NATO, and others were furious. He told Reuters that when Ukraine turned to Europe’s officials for help, they “spat on us.”

    Next year Ukraine will have to cover foreign debt payments of $8 billion, according to its finance ministry. It was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, partly because Moscow was blocking sales of Ukrainian-produced meat, cheese and some confectionery, and scrapping duty-free quotas on steel pipes. Some officials said the restrictions showed what life would be like if Ukraine signed the EU agreement.

    Yanukovich’s other hope was the IMF. It rescued Ukraine during the onset of the global financial crisis with a $16.5 billion loan in 2008 when Tymoshenko was prime minister. It also approved a $15.5 billion stand-by program for the Yanukovich government in 2010, disbursing about $3.5 billion, before freezing the program in 2011 because Ukraine failed to meet its conditions. A year later, the program had expired.

    The IMF, like the EU, was unwilling to grant the sort of loans Yanukovich wanted under a new program. In a letter dated November 20, it told Ukraine that it would not soften conditions for a new loan and that it would offer only $5 billion, Oliynyk said. And Kiev would have to pay back almost the same amount next year, he said, as part of repayments for the earlier $16.5 billion loan.

    The IMF declined to comment. According to IMF figures, Kiev should pay back $3.7 billion next year.

    “We could not contain our emotions, it was unacceptable,” said Oliynyk.

    Yanukovich was furious, party members said. He believed the IMF had ignored what he saw as reasonable demands to lift tough conditions for its earlier help, such as increasing the retirement age and freezing pensions and wages. Worse, the IMF was asking him to repay a loan that had been negotiated by his arch enemy, Tymoshenko.

    JUSTICE ON TRIAL

    Despite his reputation as a hard man – he was sent to Soviet prisons twice for theft and assault when he was a youth – Yanukovich has a particular weak point: jailed opposition leader Tymoshenko. He both detests and fears her, according to his aides and diplomats.

    Conspicuous for her plaited blonde hair, Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution, which snuffed out Yanukovich’s first bid to be president. She served as prime minister in 2005 and then from 2007-2010, and their enmity deepened when a plan to form a coalition against a common enemy failed in 2009.

    Tymoshenko, who has said she wanted to “kill” Yanukovich over his policy U-turn, was jailed in 2011 for abuse of office after a trial Western governments say was political. Most Ukrainians think she should be released, though many question how she amassed her wealth.

    To the EU, Tymoshenko’s case represented an unacceptable standard of justice. As part of the trade pact, the EU demanded Ukraine release Tymoshenko or, as some officials suggested, make a commitment to do so.

    Yanukovich and his supporters resisted. “We had done most things on the list for the EU accession agreement, but there was a question mark over Tymoshenko … We believe she is guilty … and among those people who think she is guilty, 80 percent are our voters,” Oliynyk said, going on to document the dozens of perceived slights Tymoshenko has made against Yanukovich.

    Yanukovich was also offended when he found out Kiev would not be offered a firm prospect of full membership of the EU; he felt Ukraine was being treated as a lesser country to “even Poland”, with which it shares a border.

    “Many citizens have got it wrong on European integration. It is not about membership, we are apparently not Poland, apparently we are not on a level with Poland … they are not letting us in really, we will be standing at the doors. We’re nice but we’re not Poles,” Oliynyk said.

    Poland became a full member of the EU in 2004. EU enlargement chief Stefan Fuele suggested after Yanukovich’s U-turn that perhaps the bloc should have offered Ukraine membership at some point.

    Amid the acrimony, leading officials, including Mykola Azarov, Yanukovich’s prime minister, performed a volte-face.

    A HEAVY PRICE

    Yanukovich knew there would be a cost, whichever way he turned. Spurning Putin would likely bring economic damage; spurning the EU has brought political damage.

    Yanukovich will resist for as long as possible signing up to Putin’s customs union, say analysts; but the prospect of Ukraine joining has already fired up mass protests in Kiev calling for him to resign. It has also split his inner circle.

    Yanukovich has become increasingly isolated, spending more time at his estate of Mezhyhirya, 16 km (9 miles) north of Kiev, complete with lake and nearby forests where he likes to hunt. There he is guarded by a large contingent of police, who allow in only family members and his closest aides.

    ———-

    “Special Report: Why Ukraine spurned the EU and embraced Russia” by Elizabeth Piper; Reuters; 12/19/2013

    “Public and private arm-twisting by Putin, including threats to Ukraine’s economy and Yanukovich’s political future, played a significant part. But the unwillingness of the EU and International Monetary Fund to be flexible in their demands of Ukraine also had an effect, making them less attractive partners.

    Yep, don’t forget that in 2012-2013, the EU was in the middle of his austerity-spree. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain were getting the screws turned on them in a massive way. That was the public face of the EU that Ukraine was trying to snuggle up to. So you can understand why assurances that Ukraine wouldn’t be forced to undergo a similar nightmare regime would have been seen as crucial for these negotiations. But those assurances never happened, making it a massive gamble for Yanukovych go proceed ahead with the deal.

    And yet, despite the clear and present risks of entering into such an arrangement with the EU, Yanukovich was apparently quite keen on finding a way to make the deal happen. That’s how interested he was in moving Ukraine closer to the EU. And that’s what the Hapsburg Group initiative was apparently all about. Making this deal a reality. It’s a major fact that complicates the narrative that Manafort, or even Yanukovych, are merely ‘Putin puppets’. Despite friendly ties with the Kremlin, Yanukovych was still a creature of Ukraine’s power structure and that power structure has multiple power orientations. Some Ukrainian oligarchs are clearly focused on good relations with Russia. But by no means all, and that included a number of figures in Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Including, most notably, Yanukovych himself. At least Yanukovych appeared to be in favor of the EU deal up until the last minute. Hence Manafort’s diplomatic campaign with the Hapsburg Group:

    On September 4, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich called a meeting of his political party for the first time in three years, summoning members to an old Soviet-era cinema called Zoryany in Kiev.

    For three hours Yanukovich cajoled and bullied anyone who pushed for Ukraine to have closer ties to Russia. A handful of deputies from his Party of Regions complained that their businesses in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east would suffer if Yanukovich didn’t agree to closer ties with Russia. That set him off.

    “Forget about it … forever!” he shouted at them, according to people who attended the meeting. Instead the president argued for an agreement to deepen trade and other cooperation with the European Union.

    Some deputies implored him to change his mind, people who attended the meeting told Reuters. Businessmen warned that a deal with the EU would provoke Russia – Ukraine’s former master in Soviet times – into toughening an economic blockade on Ukrainian goods. Yanukovich stood firm.

    “We will pursue integration with Europe,” he barked back, according to three people who attended the meeting. He seemed dead set on looking west.

    “We will pursue integration with Europe.” That was reportedly Yanukovych in September of 2013. And all indications, including the Hapsburg Group affair, point towards that being a genuine desire.

    But as the negotiations deadline neared, Yanukovych flipped. And it wasn’t like a surprise flip. It was a flip that followed the refusal of the EU and IMF and make assurances that he wasn’t about to throw his country into economic tumult with the deal. The EU and IMF, as expected, engaged in their typical Troikan inflexibility on these matters. And, not unreasonably, that was something Yanukovych saw as an undesirable trait in the super-power Ukraine was trying to integrate with. Again, brutal austerity isn’t just a bad look. It’s bad policy. In part because it’s such a bad look:


    Less than three months later Yanukovich spurned the EU, embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin and struck a deal on December 17 for a bailout of his country. Russia will invest $15 billion in Ukraine’s government debt and reduce by about a third the price that Naftogaz, Ukraine’s national energy company, pays for Russian gas.

    It is not clear what Yanukovich agreed to give Russia in return, but two sources close to him said he may have had to surrender some control over Ukraine’s gas pipeline network.

    What caused the U-turn by the leadership of a country of 46 million people that occupies a strategic position between the EU and Russia?

    Public and private arm-twisting by Putin, including threats to Ukraine’s economy and Yanukovich’s political future, played a significant part. But the unwillingness of the EU and International Monetary Fund to be flexible in their demands of Ukraine also had an effect, making them less attractive partners.

    So while it’s widely assumed that Yanukovych was just blindly taking Putin’s orders, when we look back the actual reporting at the time we find that Yanukovych appeared to be very eager to work out a deal, and only reversed when the costs of the deal spiked after the EU and IMF got cheap. Imagine if the EU and IMF hadn’t been so cheap. Imagine how different the situation might be today. Again, brutal austerity isn’t just a bad look. It’s horrible policy that’s erodes the future. In so many ways.

    But while Yanukovych may not have been taking Putin’s personal orders when he called off the trade union, to some extent these negotiations over covering the costs of upgrading Ukraine to EU standards were taken personally by Yanukovych according to the article. He was personally dismayed that the EU was being so unreasonable when it came to the costs Ukraine was going to have to pay. And when you look at what the EU was offering, he had every reason to be dismayed: Yanukovych was arguing that Ukraine needed $160 billion over three years to deal with the loss of trade with Russia combined with the costs of upgrading its economy and society to EU standards. $160 billion was presumably an overestimate. But look what the EU offered: $839 million. And apparently there was $19 billion in loans over seven years on the table but the Ukrainian negotiators reportedly never heard this offer. And those woefully inadequate offers by the EU are a big reason why we can’t just assume that Yanukovych never really intended on this deal. The deal really did turn out to be potentially hazardous for Ukraine when the final negotiations unfolded and the EU refused to budge:


    PROUD EGO

    Risen from humble roots, Yanukovich likes to be treated with respect and as an equal, a characteristic that has informed much of his reluctance to join the customs union of former Soviet states that Putin wants to create.

    Colleagues describe the burly leader as an intuitive politician who cannot abide being patronized. Inna Bohoslovska, a member of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions until last month, said Yanukovich made clear at the cinema meeting his dislike of Russia treating Ukraine as second rate.

    “He told us Russia was not fit for talks, Russia did not consider Ukraine to be an equal partner, that it tried to force us to act by its own rules, that Russia does not act in Ukraine’s best interests in any negotiations, and therefore there can be no talk of having negotiations with Russia,” she said.

    Yanukovich felt he was better treated by EU officials, two party members said, despite finding it hard to grasp the complexity of EU bureaucracy. Hailing from Ukraine’s industrial east, Yanukovich also seemed the perfect man to persuade Ukraine’s pro-Russian eastern regions to agree to closer ties with Europe.

    “That a president from the east would bring Ukraine into Europe was the ideal combination for us. We were willing to do anything,” said David Zhvaniya, a former member of the Party of Regions who helped lead efforts to prepare Ukraine for deeper cooperation with the EU.

    Now deeply disillusioned, Zhvaniya feels misled by Yanukovich: “He tricked us all … It was a complete, utter lie.” He accuses Yanukovich of acting like a tsar.

    Others say Yanukovich’s desire to forge closer links with the EU was genuine, but that he became dismayed when he felt the EU failed to acknowledge the scale of the financial difficulties he would face if he chose Brussels over Moscow.

    Yanukovich estimated that he needed $160 billion over three years to make up for the trade Ukraine stood to lose with Russia, and to help cushion the pain from reforms the EU was demanding. The EU refused to give such a sum, which it said was exaggerated and unjustified.

    The EU offered 610 million euros ($839 million) immediately. EU officials said increased trade, combined with various aid and financing programs, might go some way to providing Kiev with the investment it needed.

    An EU source said Ukraine could have been in line to receive at least 19 billion euros in EU loans and grants over the next seven years if it had signed a trade and cooperation agreement and reached a deal with the IMF. But that sum was not mentioned to Ukraine officials during negotiations, said the source.

    “An EU source said Ukraine could have been in line to receive at least 19 billion euros in EU loans and grants over the next seven years if it had signed a trade and cooperation agreement and reached a deal with the IMF. But that sum was not mentioned to Ukraine officials during negotiations, said the source.”

    Note that the 19 bilion euros in EU loans and grants over the next seven years that the EU reportedly offered would still have likely been a tiny fraction of what Ukraine is needed (Yanukovich was estimating Ukrained needed $160 billion over three years). And that kind of skimpy offer is completely consistent with the approach the EU has been taking with virtually all of the EU nations that have been searching for help since the 2008 financial crisis grew into the eurozone crisis. So while the EU source might be trying to act like there was actually a decent secret offer being made, 19 billion isn’t actually enough and all recent history indicates that the offer was likely very inadequate because those were the only kinds of offer the EU was offering in 2013. Very inadequate offers. It’s a crucial context for understanding this period of history leading up to Ukraine’s conflict.

    And the IMF wasn’t making a decent offer either. Which is also completely consistent with the IMF:


    To Ukraine, there seemed little prospect of getting the EU, already struggling to help its indebted members, to offer a better deal than its original offer.

    Oliynyk, who is Ukraine’s permanent representative for NATO, and others were furious. He told Reuters that when Ukraine turned to Europe’s officials for help, they “spat on us.”

    Next year Ukraine will have to cover foreign debt payments of $8 billion, according to its finance ministry. It was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, partly because Moscow was blocking sales of Ukrainian-produced meat, cheese and some confectionery, and scrapping duty-free quotas on steel pipes. Some officials said the restrictions showed what life would be like if Ukraine signed the EU agreement.

    Yanukovich’s other hope was the IMF. It rescued Ukraine during the onset of the global financial crisis with a $16.5 billion loan in 2008 when Tymoshenko was prime minister. It also approved a $15.5 billion stand-by program for the Yanukovich government in 2010, disbursing about $3.5 billion, before freezing the program in 2011 because Ukraine failed to meet its conditions. A year later, the program had expired.

    The IMF, like the EU, was unwilling to grant the sort of loans Yanukovich wanted under a new program. In a letter dated November 20, it told Ukraine that it would not soften conditions for a new loan and that it would offer only $5 billion, Oliynyk said. And Kiev would have to pay back almost the same amount next year, he said, as part of repayments for the earlier $16.5 billion loan.

    The IMF declined to comment. According to IMF figures, Kiev should pay back $3.7 billion next year.

    “We could not contain our emotions, it was unacceptable,” said Oliynyk.

    Yanukovich was furious, party members said. He believed the IMF had ignored what he saw as reasonable demands to lift tough conditions for its earlier help, such as increasing the retirement age and freezing pensions and wages. Worse, the IMF was asking him to repay a loan that had been negotiated by his arch enemy, Tymoshenko.

    All that said, it’s also seems undeniable that the demand to release Yulia Tymoshenko factored in significantly into Yanukovych’s calculus. It wasn’t just that Yanukovych hated and feared her. His supporters overwhelmingly wanted to ‘lock her up’ too:


    JUSTICE ON TRIAL

    Despite his reputation as a hard man – he was sent to Soviet prisons twice for theft and assault when he was a youth – Yanukovich has a particular weak point: jailed opposition leader Tymoshenko. He both detests and fears her, according to his aides and diplomats.

    To the EU, Tymoshenko’s case represented an unacceptable standard of justice. As part of the trade pact, the EU demanded Ukraine release Tymoshenko or, as some officials suggested, make a commitment to do so.

    Yanukovich and his supporters resisted. “We had done most things on the list for the EU accession agreement, but there was a question mark over Tymoshenko … We believe she is guilty … and among those people who think she is guilty, 80 percent are our voters,” Oliynyk said, going on to document the dozens of perceived slights Tymoshenko has made against Yanukovich.

    And in the midst of these fateful negotiations, where Ukraine would make a historic lurch away from Russia and towards Europe, Ukraine still wasn’t offered a firm prospect of full EU membership. Now, on the one hand, that could have been part of the diplomacy required to ease the strains with the Kremlin. But on the other hand, not offering assurances of full EU membership is fully consistent with the EU model of brutal austerity that was on full display in 2013. And Yanukovych’s big fear, and very sane fear, was intense austerity as a result of this deal. So not even getting a guarantee of EU membership is a big let down. Lots of austerity was going to be demanded on the path to EU membership, and even more austerity is possible if that membership isn’t assured. Because, once again, austerity isn’t just a bad policy. It’s a horrible look, especially during your other negotiations. And horrible looks are generally bad policy during negotiations:


    Yanukovich was also offended when he found out Kiev would not be offered a firm prospect of full membership of the EU; he felt Ukraine was being treated as a lesser country to “even Poland”, with which it shares a border.

    “Many citizens have got it wrong on European integration. It is not about membership, we are apparently not Poland, apparently we are not on a level with Poland … they are not letting us in really, we will be standing at the doors. We’re nice but we’re not Poles,” Oliynyk said.

    Poland became a full member of the EU in 2004. EU enlargement chief Stefan Fuele suggested after Yanukovich’s U-turn that perhaps the bloc should have offered Ukraine membership at some point.

    Amid the acrimony, leading officials, including Mykola Azarov, Yanukovich’s prime minister, performed a volte-face.

    So that was all part of the maelstrom of tension leading up to the sniper attacks of February 20th, 2014. And part of what needs to be factored into speculation about who Paul Manafort was actually working for in 2013-2014. And especially during the sniper attacks of February 2014. Because after this Hapsburg Group indictment from Mueller it seems pretty clear that Paul Manafort was, at a minimum, working in concert with EU interests who also wanted to see Ukraine join this trade union. So when the Yanukovych government reversed course on November 21st, 2013, who was Manafort really working for at that point? The Yanukovych government or the EU forces behind the Hapsburg Group?

    Or how about private interest that would stand to profit immensely from the trade deal? Was Manafort working for private interests at the same time he was on Yanukovych’s payroll? Don’t forget that Romano Prodi speculated that it was more likely that the money for the Hapsburg Group came from European businessmen interested in keeping Europe and Ukraine close. Well, was that the case? Did Manafort manage to acquire European clients who started off wanting the same goal as the Yanukovych government but then came into sharp conflict after the reversal?

    And if some kind of situation like that happened, which side did Manafort choose after the trade deal collapsed? These are the kinds of questions that the Hapsburg Group revelation just inserted into the mystery of the Maidan sniper attacks.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 28, 2018, 10:53 pm
  5. @Pterrafractyl–

    Note that the Habsburgs are once again active in Ukraine, with Galicia (Western Ukraine) having been part of their empire for a long time.

    http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-833-shooting-ourselves-in-the-foot-in-ukraine-habsburg-redux/

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | March 1, 2018, 3:10 pm
  6. Here’s another story related to Mueller probe’s investigation of Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine filled with no shortage of twists. And it directly relates to the recent “Hapsburg Group” revelation about the diplomatic initiative apparently financed by Manafort’s consulting firm that sent former European officials to lobby governments, including the US, to get Ukraine’s bid to join an EU trade union accepted. And it also relates to the mysterious communications between a server over by Alfa Bank and a Trump organization server that has fueled speculation that Alfa’s server was being used as a secret communications channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin:

    Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan plead guilty to lying to the Mueller investigation. Van der Zwaan worked for the respected law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which worked with Manafort in Ukraine. Van der Zwaan is also the son-in-law of Alfa bank founder German Khan (a Ukrainian). Recall the mysterious Alfa bank server and its odd communications with a Trump Organization server that was revealed in late October of 2016 (covered in FTR#930). The FBI was continuing to investigate that mystery as of March of 2017, and there have been no indications since that the investigation into that Alfa server mystery was closed. So learning about an Alfa founder’s son-in-law pleading guilty in those investigation is potentially a pretty big deal.

    So what did van der Zwaan lie about? He lied about when he last communicated with Paul Manafort’s long-time consulting partner Rick Gates. Specifically, Mueller’s prosecutors alleged that van der Zwaan falsely told federal investigators that he last communicated with Gates in mid-August 2016 and that last communication was just an innocuous text message. Instead, prosecutors say, van der Zwaan spoke to Gates and another unnamed person in September 2016 using encrypted communications. And he recorded these conversations. The unnamed person wasn’t identified other than to they were a longtime business associate of Manafort who was principally based in Ukraine at the time and spoke to van der Zwaan in Russian.

    Mueller’s prosecutors also said van der Zwaan deleted emails rather than turning them over to Skadden, which was gathering documents for the special counsel. And one document he deleted was the email to Gates requesting that they use encrypted communications.

    So it sounds like van der Zwaan deleted the emails requesting the encrypted communications…but he didn’t delete the encrypted communications. It’s a reminder that it’s going to be a lot harder to do investigations like this when end-to-end strong encryption is the norm and there’s no need to send the “hey, let’s use encrypted communications”-email. And those future investigations will be even harder when the encrypted communications are actually deleted.

    Adding to the conspicuous nature of the mid-August 2016 request for encrypted communications, the request came shortly after Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Manafort had accepted off-the-books cash payments for his work in Ukraine. Those off-the-books cash payments to Manafort are particularly sensitive for van der Zwaan because circumstantial evidence suggests that van der Zwaan himself may have been a recipient of off-the-books payments of some sort for the work he did for Manafort while Manafort was consulting the Yanukovych government.

    And, in particular, it’s the work van der Zwaan did for Manafort that was directly related to the “Hapsburg Group” initiative that appears to be at the center of those suspected off-the-books cash payments from Manafort to van der Zwaan. The Ukrainian government claimed to have paid only $12,000 for the work van der Zwaan did, an amount that put it just below the limit that would have required competitive bidding for the project under Ukrainian law. Prosecutors are alleging that Manafort and Gates used an offshore account to secretly pay $4 million for the report.

    So what did Alex van der Zwaan do for Manafort as part of the “Hapsburg Group” diplomatic push? He wrote a report for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom that made the case that the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko was legally just and that Ukraine deserved to be allowed into the trade union without releasing Tymoshenko.

    And that’s a pretty big twist. Because recall one of the biggest twists in the hole “Hapsburg Group” case: that Manafort arranged this “Hapsburg Group” to lobby the case that Ukraine deserved to be allowed into a trade pact with the EU. Given the widespread assumption that Manafort and the Yanukovych government were exclusively operating under the direction of the Kremlin it was a pretty big twist to learn that Manafort was paying for a diplomatic push to get Ukraine past the barriers preventing it from joining a trade union with the EU.

    And that’s all why it’s also a big twist to learn that Alex van der Zwann is the son-in-law of one of the founder of Alfa Group, German Khan. Because both Alfa and German Khan are generally characterized as being close to Putin and the Kremlin. But as was laid out in FTR #530 and FTR #573, Alfa Group’s relationship with power is by no means limited to the Kremlin. And that range of relationships – from South American criminal cartels, to European money-laundering networks, to even the networks that trafficked some of the 9/11 hijackers where Nazis-meet-Islamists – is part of what makes this new twist about the son-in-law of one of Alfa’s founders such a big twist: the range of feasible implications of this twist is vast because Alfa is connected to so many shady networks beyond their obvious Kremlin ties. It is a globally shady entity.

    Finally, the subject of the September 2016 recorded encrypted phone call between van der Zwaan, Gates, one the unnamed person was indeed that 2012 report on Tymoshenko’s jailing prepared by van der Zwaan’s law firm.

    So let’s quickly review what was learned with the guilty plea of Alex van der Zwaan:

    1. Alex van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of one of Alfa’s co-founders, German Khan, created a report justifying the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko so Ukraine could enter the EU trade pact in 2012.

    2. Van der Zwaan was officially only paid $12,000 for the report, an amount just below the limit that would have required competitive bidding for the work under Ukrainian law.

    3. Van der Zwaan claimed to Mueller probe that his last contact with with Rick Gates, who served as a top official on President Trump’s campaign and a longtime business partner of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was in mid August of 2016, right around the time Manafort resigned from the campaign over stories that he accepted off-the-books cash payments for his work in Ukraine.

    4. Van der Zwaan actually deleted some of his emails to Gates, including one requesting that they use encrypted communications. This email was not turned over to the Mueller probe when requested but was instead deleted.

    5. Van der Zwaan apparently kept recorded one of the encrypted calls he had with Gates and another unnamed individual in September of 2016. That call was about the 2012 report.

    6. Prosecutors allege that Manafort and Gates used an offshore account to secretly pay $4 million for the report.

    So it looks like Mueller is alleging that Manafort secretly paid big money to the son-in-law of Alfa Group to write up a report that would make it easier for Ukraine to join a trade union with the EU. It’s one helluva twist:

    The Washington Post

    In Mueller probe, son-in-law of Russian businessman pleads guilty to false statements

    By Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman
    February 20, 2018

    The Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s wealthiest men pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington to making false statements in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    Alex van der Zwaan was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with Rick Gates, who served as a top official on President Trump’s campaign and a longtime business partner of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

    Based in London, van der Zwaan worked for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which worked with Manafort and Gates when they served as political consultants in Ukraine.

    Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of German Khan, a billionaire and an owner of Alfa Group, Russia’s largest financial and industrial investment group.

    In a court appearance, the 33-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators, a felony. He is facing a recommended sentence ranging from zero to six months in prison when he is sentenced April 3.

    His plea deal comes as Gates has been in plea negotiations with the special counsel, according to a person familiar with the situation. Gates’s attorneys declined to comment.

    Mueller charged Manafort and Gates in October with conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges related to lobbying work they did for a Russian-friendly political party in Ukraine and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

    With van der Zwaan, Mueller’s sprawling probe has now netted four guilty pleas, including from former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    On Friday, Mueller’s team also indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies with meddling in the 2016 election through a social-media campaign in which they falsely posed as Americans to promote Trump, disparage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and sow discord among voters.

    Like the Manafort and Gates charges, van der Zwaan’s case is rooted in Ukraine, where Manafort worked as an international political consultant starting in 2005.

    In a two-page charging document, prosecutors alleged that van der Zwaan falsely told federal investigators that he last communicated with Gates in mid-August 2016 through an innocuous text message.

    Prosecutors said van der Zwaan was lying, and that he spoke to Gates and another unnamed person in September 2016 using encrypted communications — conversations that he recorded.

    Prosecutors did not identify the second person with whom van der Zwaan spoke other than to say that the person was a longtime business associate of Manafort who was principally based in Ukraine at the time and spoke to van der Zwaan in Russian.

    Prosecutors said van der Zwaan also deleted emails rather than turning them over to Skadden, which was gathering documents for the special counsel. One document he deleted, prosecutors said, was an email requesting that he use encrypted communications.

    The communication between van der Zwaan and Gates came shortly after Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Manafort had accepted off-the-books cash payments for his work in Ukraine. Gates continued to work for the campaign through the election and later worked for Trump’s inaugural committee.

    In court, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said investigators spoke with van der Zwaan on Nov. 3 and again on Dec. 1 as part of the special counsel’s examination of possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act by Manafort, Gates “and others.” The law requires people to register with the Justice Department before lobbying or performing public-relations work for foreign governments and political parties.

    The subject of the 2016 recorded phone call, prosecutors said, was a 2012 report prepared by van der Zwaan’s law firm about the jailing of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovych had imprisoned Tymoshenko, a political rival, after a gas supply controversy in 2009 involving Russia.

    The Skadden report has been controversial in Ukraine in part because its findings seemed to contradict the international community’s conclusion that Tymoshenko had been unjustly jailed.

    In addition, the Ukrainian government claimed to have paid only $12,000 for the report, an amount that put it just below the limit that would have required competitive bidding for the project under Ukrainian law.

    Prosecutors have alleged that Manafort and Gates used an offshore account to secretly pay $4 million for the report.

    Weissmann said Tuesday that Manafort and Gates hoped to get the Times to cover the report before its contents were revealed in Europe, potentially to improve the reputation of Yanukovych in the United States, where his image had taken a hit after the jailing of Tymoshenko.

    As part of that lobbying effort, Weissmann said van der Zwaan had taken an advanced copy of the report in 2012 without authorization and provided it to a public-relations team, then providing Gates with talking points about it.

    Khan, van der Zwaan’s father-in-law, is a native of Kiev, Ukraine. Along with two other Alfa Bank owners, Khan has filed a defamation suit against Fusion GPS, the Washington private intelligence firm that hired former British spy Christopher Steele to research Trump’s ties to Russia during the campaign. Steele’s reports had included allegations about Alfa Bank and its ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

    Khan and other Alfa Bank owners have also sued BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in January 2017.

    ———-

    “In Mueller probe, son-in-law of Russian businessman pleads guilty to false statements” by Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman; The Washington Post; 02/20/2018

    In a two-page charging document, prosecutors alleged that van der Zwaan falsely told federal investigators that he last communicated with Gates in mid-August 2016 through an innocuous text message.”

    Lying to prosecutors. That’s at the heart of the charges Alex van der Zwaan plead guilty to. It’s an unsurprising prosecutorial theme for an investigation of this nature. But van der Zwaan isn’t just some random lawyer. He’s the son-in-law of German Khan, cofounder and an owner of Alfa Group:


    Based in London, van der Zwaan worked for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which worked with Manafort and Gates when they served as political consultants in Ukraine.

    Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of German Khan, a billionaire and an owner of Alfa Group, Russia’s largest financial and industrial investment group.

    In a court appearance, the 33-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators, a felony. He is facing a recommended sentence ranging from zero to six months in prison when he is sentenced April 3.

    And the particular lie he told was about when he last communicated with Rick Gates. And there evidence of this lie is apparently in the form of an encrypted phone call with Gates and one unnamed person that van der Zwaan recorded:


    Like the Manafort and Gates charges, van der Zwaan’s case is rooted in Ukraine, where Manafort worked as an international political consultant starting in 2005.

    In a two-page charging document, prosecutors alleged that van der Zwaan falsely told federal investigators that he last communicated with Gates in mid-August 2016 through an innocuous text message.

    Prosecutors said van der Zwaan was lying, and that he spoke to Gates and another unnamed person in September 2016 using encrypted communications — conversations that he recorded.

    Prosecutors did not identify the second person with whom van der Zwaan spoke other than to say that the person was a longtime business associate of Manafort who was principally based in Ukraine at the time and spoke to van der Zwaan in Russian.

    And this move to encrypted communications happened short after Manafort had to resign from Trump’s campaign following the revelation that he took off-the-books cash payments during his work in Ukraine:


    Prosecutors said van der Zwaan also deleted emails rather than turning them over to Skadden, which was gathering documents for the special counsel. One document he deleted, prosecutors said, was an email requesting that he use encrypted communications.

    The communication between van der Zwaan and Gates came shortly after Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged Manafort had accepted off-the-books cash payments for his work in Ukraine. Gates continued to work for the campaign through the election and later worked for Trump’s inaugural committee.

    And the subject of the encrypted phone call that took place in September 2016 was, not surprisngly, about the work van der Zwaan did in 2012 creating a report justifying the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko. A report that van der Zwaan’s firm was secretly paid $4 million for, according to prosecutors:


    The subject of the 2016 recorded phone call, prosecutors said, was a 2012 report prepared by van der Zwaan’s law firm about the jailing of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovych had imprisoned Tymoshenko, a political rival, after a gas supply controversy in 2009 involving Russia.

    The Skadden report has been controversial in Ukraine in part because its findings seemed to contradict the international community’s conclusion that Tymoshenko had been unjustly jailed.

    In addition, the Ukrainian government claimed to have paid only $12,000 for the report, an amount that put it just below the limit that would have required competitive bidding for the project under Ukrainian law.

    Prosecutors have alleged that Manafort and Gates used an offshore account to secretly pay $4 million for the report.

    So that’s all one big piece of circumstantial evidence that the Yanukovych government really did want Ukraine to join this trade union with the EU.

    Now, did van der Zwaan’s report direct relate to the Hapsburg Group’s lobbying efforts? Yes, according to a recent interview of Patrick Cox, the Irish politician and former head of the EU parliament who was part of the Hapsburg Group.

    First, recall that Cox claimed he was never paid by Manafort, and basically nothing to do with Manafort other than meeting him a few times, and was actually doing his diplomatic work pro-bono under the recommendation of SPD leader Martin Schulz, who was at that point President of the EU parliament. And that much of his work was lobbying to get the Ukrainian government to release the political prisoners the EU demanded be released as part of the terms of the trade union. In other words, Cox asserts that his work with the ‘Hapsburg Group’ was really work on behalf of the EU during these negotiations between Ukraine and the EU over the trade union and that work mostly involved trying to get Ukraine to release those prisoners, most notably Yulia Tymoshenko.

    So how did van der Zwaan’s report factor into this? Well, according to Cox, it was that report report that Viktor Yanukovych gave to him in 2012 as a way of arguing that the release of Tymoshenko was unnecessary because it was done properly and followed due process. And it’s not surprising that the report was used in this manner. That was the point of writing it. But it’s notable that we have one of the figures for the ‘Hapsburg Group’ receiving this same report that Manafort apparently paid a lot of money to have created because it gives us an idea of how much money and effort Manafort was putting into this effort to get Ukraine into the EU’s orbit:

    The Irish Times

    Pat Cox willing to assist Mueller investigation if asked
    Former MEP says ex-Ukrainian leader used report linked to indicted former Trump aide

    Simon Carswell Public Affairs Editor
    Mon, Feb 26, 2018, 01:00

    Former politician Pat Cox has said he is “perfectly happy” to hand over records about his political work for the European Parliament in Ukraine to the investigation into Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

    Mr Cox worked on behalf of the parliament on a mission between 2012 and 2014 to persuade the then Russia-backed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to release imprisoned political opponents.

    The Irish former MEP has said he had no involvement with a group of former European politicians known as the “Hapsburg group” that were, it is alleged, secretly used by Paul Manafort, who later became Mr Trump’s presidential campaign manager, to lobby on behalf of Mr Yanukovych’s government.

    The former Irish politician said that his 2012-2014 mission in Ukraine was opposed by Mr Yanukovych, describing it as a “stone in his shoe.”

    Mr Cox said that in one face-to-face encounter with Mr Yanukovych the Ukrainian leader challenged his work to release prisoners with a report linked to a lawyer who has since pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the US investigation into Mr Manafort and his associates over their lobbying.

    Offshore banks

    In a new indictment on Friday, Mr Mueller accused Mr Manafort and his former aide Rick Gates of secretly retaining “a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favourable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States”.

    At least four offshore banks were used to wire more than €2 million to the group, that were informally known as “the Hapsburg group” – a reference to the Habsburg royal dynasty.

    One of the Washington lobbying firms hired by Mr Manafort, the Podesta Group, said last year that it arranged meetings for visiting European leaders about Ukraine that included Romano Prodi, the former prime minister of Italy, and the former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

    Mr Kwasniewski and Mr Cox worked together on the Ukrainian mission to seek the release of opposition politicians Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko and Valeriy Ivaschenko on behalf of the European Parliament.

    Mr Kwasniewski has said that he met Mr Manafort two or three times during the mission in 2012 and 2013 but that he never had a financial relationship with him and and has never heard of the Hapsburg group.

    Mr Cox told The Irish Times that he has never met Mr Manafort, that he was never a member of the group and that he was never paid for his work in Ukraine.

    “I do all the work pro-bono so I am not paid anything for it. I do not do any meetings that there are not note-takers from the parliament staff because it is a parliament mission,” he said.

    ‘Absolutely flawless’

    At one meeting with Mr Yanukovych, Mr Cox said that the then Ukrainian president pushed across the table “with a bit of a smirk on his face” a report by US law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom.

    Mr Yanukovych was “pleased to tell” the EU mission that the report was compiled by former Obama administration lawyers at the firm, he said.

    One of the firm’s associates Alex van der Zwaan (33), a Dutch lawyer at Skadden’s London office who worked on the report, has pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors in Mr Mueller’s investigation.

    Mr Cox said he would be happy to assist Mr Mueller’s investigation if requested.

    “If he contacts me because he thinks I am involved in something I would be perfectly happy to give him access – or ask the European Parliament – to give him access to a 100 per cent totally and absolutely flawless creditable record of activity,” he said.

    The Skadden report was commissioned for Mr Yanukovych, said Mr Cox, and “largely pointed out the futility in legal terms of what we were trying to do to release the prisoners”.

    The report claimed that the trial of Mr Yanukovych’s political opponent Ms Tymoshenko – which she claimed was politically motivated – was justified and followed due process.

    ———-

    “Pat Cox willing to assist Mueller investigation if asked” by Simon Carswell; The Irish Times; 02/26/2018

    “At one meeting with Mr Yanukovych, Mr Cox said that the then Ukrainian president pushed across the table “with a bit of a smirk on his face” a report by US law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom.

    Yeah, Yanukovych probably had at least a bit of smirk on his face when he handed Cox that report in 2012. Especially if Cox was, wittingly or unwittingly, working as part of a Manafort-orchestrated “Hapsburg Group” operation.

    And as expected, this report asserting that Tymoshenko’s jailing was justified and followed due process:


    Mr Yanukovych was “pleased to tell” the EU mission that the report was compiled by former Obama administration lawyers at the firm, he said.

    One of the firm’s associates Alex van der Zwaan (33), a Dutch lawyer at Skadden’s London office who worked on the report, has pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors in Mr Mueller’s investigation.

    The Skadden report was commissioned for Mr Yanukovych, said Mr Cox, and “largely pointed out the futility in legal terms of what we were trying to do to release the prisoners”.

    The report claimed that the trial of Mr Yanukovych’s political opponent Ms Tymoshenko – which she claimed was politically motivated – was justified and followed due process.

    So that all adds a new context for the “Hapsburg Group” revelation. Now we know that the Yanukovych government apparently paid big money for report by a respected law firm that would allow Yanukovych to keep Tymoshenko in jail while still allowing the EU-Ukraine trade union to become reality.

    And don’t forget, the “Hapsburg Group” operation apparently involved another $2 million in secret financing:


    At least four offshore banks were used to wire more than €2 million to the group, that were informally known as “the Hapsburg group” – a reference to the Habsburg royal dynasty.

    So, assuming that $2 million wasn’t part of the $4 million reportedly paid to Zwaan’s law firm, that would put the price tag of these lobbying efforts at $6 million. And that’s just what we know of. In other words, the people paying Manafort and his team during this period really, really, really wanted Ukraine to snuggle up to the EU.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2018, 8:40 pm
  7. There appears to be a fight on the Ukrainian far-right breaking out that will definitely be worth watching: Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker who was formerly a fighter pilot who become a national hero after getting shot down over Eastern Ukraine and spending 22 months in Russian captivity, was just charged by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko with planning a terrorist attack on parliament intended to kill Petro Poroshenko and other high-level Ukrainian government officials. Keep in mind that Savchenko called for a “military-style” government last year, and suggested that she would be a good person to lead that.

    Savchenko replied with her own charge, although that charge changed somewhat after she met with the SBU: Savchenko first asserted that she witnessed Andriy Parubiy, the neo-Nazi speaker of the parliament, with direct involvement in the Maidan sniper attacks. She made this charge to journalists in front of the SBU headquarters where she was called to answer questions as a witness regarding the alleged terror plot. After she met with the SBU, however, Savchenko changed her accusation and said it was actually Serhiy Pashinskyy (Sergei Pashinsky), a different lawmaker from Yulia Tymoshenko’s party who was also a leader of the Maidan protests, who Savchenko saw facilitating the sniper attacks. And it was just “a slip of the tongue” when she initially accused Parubiy.

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    ‘War Hero’ Savchenko Accused Of Terror Plot, Levels Own Accusations In Ukraine

    RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service
    Last Updated: March 15, 2018 14:52 GMT

    KYIV — Lawmaker and former Russian captive Nadia Savchenko has traded incendiary accusations with senior Ukrainian authorities and faces possible arrest over what Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko alleged was a detailed plan for a devastating “terrorist” attack on parliament.

    Savchenko, a former military aviator who spent 22 months in Russian prisons after being detained by separatists in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, claimed on March 15 that lawmaker Serhiy Pashinskyy played a prominent role in a deadly crackdown on pro-European demonstrators during antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

    Speaking to journalists in front of the Security Service (SBU) headquarters in Kyiv, before she was questioned as a witness in a case against a man arrested last week on suspicion of plotting to kill President Petro Poroshenko and other officials in a series of armed attacks, Savchenko also asserted that Lutsenko covered up what she alleged was current parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy’s involvement in sniper shootings that authorities say killed dozens of people during the crackdown on the Maidan protests.

    However, Savchenko said later that she meant to accuse not Parubiy but Pashinskyy, and publicly apologized to the parliament speaker for “a slip of the tongue.”

    Lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada swiftly responded by kicking Savchenko out of the single-chamber parliament’s national security and defense committee. Lutsenko, meanwhile, told parliament that Savchenko had planned an attack using grenades, mortars and automatic weapons.

    Investigators have “irrefutable proof that Nadia Savchenko…personally planned, personally recruited, and personally gave instructions about how to commit a terrorist act here, in this chamber,” Lutsenko said. He asked the Rada to strip her of her parliamentary immunity so that she could be arrested.

    Lutsenko claimed that Savchenko’s plan included destroying the Rada’s roof cupola and killing surviving lawmakers with assault-rifle fire.

    Savchenko became a national hero and was greeted with fanfare when she returned to Ukraine in a prisoner swap with Russia in May 2016, but has faced mounting criticism since then. She has drawn fire for holding talks with the Russia-backed separatists without the government’s consent.

    In January 2017, lawmakers called for an investigation into what they said were anti-Ukrainian actions after Savchenko suggested that Kyiv would have to relax its claim on Crimea, which Russia seized after Yanukovych’s ouster in 2014, in order to regain control of the territory held by the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    More than 100 protesters were killed in the 2013-14 demonstrations, centered on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnost (Independence Square) that preceded Yanukovych’s flight to Russia. Forty-eight of them were allegedly gunned down in February 2014 by snipers who Ukrainian authorities claim received direct orders from the Moscow-friendly Yanukovych.

    In her remarks on March 15, Savchenko said that she saw Parubiy, who was on the antigovernment side at the time, “leading snipers into the Hotel Ukraine,” which looms over the Maidan. “I saw a blue minibus and armed people coming out of it, I have said earlier [to investigators] who those people were. Those people are now lawmakers.”

    She said the deaths on the Maidan will never be thoroughly investigated, asserting that the government that came to power after Yanukovych’s downfall does not want it to happen.

    Savchenko also accused the government of “giving up Crimea” and said it bore responsibility for the deaths of Ukrainian soldiers in the ongoing conflict in the east, where more than 10,300 combatants and civilians have been killed in the war between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists since April 2014.

    Lutsenko’s accusation came after Savchenko reported to SBU headquarters for questioning as a witness in the case against Volodymyr Ruban, who has been a key negotiator in prisoner exchanges with the Russia-backed separatists.

    Ruban was arrested last week and charged with plotting to kill Poroshenko and other top officials, after he was detained while crossing into government-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine — allegedly with large amounts of weapons and ammunition hidden in a shipment of furniture.

    Investigators claim Ruban planned to use mortars, grenade launchers, guns, and explosives to carry out armed attacks on the residences of statesmen and political leaders” including Poroshenko, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksandr Turchynov with the intention of killing them.

    Ruban, whose Center for the Release of POWs has been involved in prisoner exchanges between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists since 2014, maintains his innocence and says he was framed.

    In the past, Ruban was involved in the activities of Ukrainian Choice, an organization that many in Ukraine consider to be pro-Kremlin. The group is headed by Viktor Medvedchuk, who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has played a major behind-the-scenes role in exchanges of captives.

    ———-

    “‘War Hero’ Savchenko Accused Of Terror Plot, Levels Own Accusations In Ukraine” by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 03/15/2018

    “Savchenko, a former military aviator who spent 22 months in Russian prisons after being detained by separatists in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, claimed on March 15 that lawmaker Serhiy Pashinskyy played a prominent role in a deadly crackdown on pro-European demonstrators during antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.”

    Serhiy Pashinskyy played a prominent role in the sniper attacks: That was Savchenko’s claim. After she initially claimed that she actually saw Parubiy “leading snipers into the Hotel Ukraine,” which looms over the Maidan. “I saw a blue minibus and armed people coming out of it, I have said earlier [to investigators] who those people were. Those people are now lawmakers.” But that was just a “slip of the tongue”, and it was actually Serhiy Pashinskyy who she saw leading snipers into the hotel:


    Speaking to journalists in front of the Security Service (SBU) headquarters in Kyiv, before she was questioned as a witness in a case against a man arrested last week on suspicion of plotting to kill President Petro Poroshenko and other officials in a series of armed attacks, Savchenko also asserted that Lutsenko covered up what she alleged was current parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy’s involvement in sniper shootings that authorities say killed dozens of people during the crackdown on the Maidan protests.

    However, Savchenko said later that she meant to accuse not Parubiy but Pashinskyy, and publicly apologized to the parliament speaker for “a slip of the tongue.”

    In her remarks on March 15, Savchenko said that she saw Parubiy, who was on the antigovernment side at the time, “leading snipers into the Hotel Ukraine,” which looms over the Maidan. “I saw a blue minibus and armed people coming out of it, I have said earlier [to investigators] who those people were. Those people are now lawmakers.”

    She said the deaths on the Maidan will never be thoroughly investigated, asserting that the government that came to power after Yanukovych’s downfall does not want it to happen.

    And this is all in the context of charges that Savchenko planned an attack on the parliament using grenades, mortars and automatic weapons. According to Lutsenko, there is “irrefutable proof that Nadia Savchenko…personally planned, personally recruited, and personally gave instructions about how to commit a terrorist act here, in this chamber”:


    Lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada swiftly responded by kicking Savchenko out of the single-chamber parliament’s national security and defense committee. Lutsenko, meanwhile, told parliament that Savchenko had planned an attack using grenades, mortars and automatic weapons.

    Investigators have “irrefutable proof that Nadia Savchenko…personally planned, personally recruited, and personally gave instructions about how to commit a terrorist act here, in this chamber,” Lutsenko said. He asked the Rada to strip her of her parliamentary immunity so that she could be arrested.

    Lutsenko claimed that Savchenko’s plan included destroying the Rada’s roof cupola and killing surviving lawmakers with assault-rifle fire.

    And these accusations against Savchenko came after she arrived at the SBU headquarters to answer questions about Volodymyr Ruban, a key negotiator in prisoner exchanges with the Russia-backed separatists who was arrested last week after he was detained while crossing into government-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine — allegedly with large amounts of weapons and ammunition hidden in a shipment of furniture — and charged with plotting to kill Poroshenko and other top officials at their residences:


    Lutsenko’s accusation came after Savchenko reported to SBU headquarters for questioning as a witness in the case against Volodymyr Ruban, who has been a key negotiator in prisoner exchanges with the Russia-backed separatists.

    Ruban was arrested last week and charged with plotting to kill Poroshenko and other top officials, after he was detained while crossing into government-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine — allegedly with large amounts of weapons and ammunition hidden in a shipment of furniture.

    Investigators claim Ruban planned to use mortars, grenade launchers, guns, and explosives to carry out armed attacks on the residences of statesmen and political leaders” including Poroshenko, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksandr Turchynov with the intention of killing them.

    Note that Savchenko was charged with plotting an attack on the parliament while Ruban was charged with plotting attacks on the residences of top officials. So if these were coordinated attacks that really would have been a remarkable coup attempt if it was carried out.

    It’s worth noting that this is not the first time such accusations have been hurdled towards Parubiy and Pashinskyy. For instance, there were news reports on Ukraine’s channel 112 back in 2014 that appeared to show Savchenko at the protests with a sniper rifle in the trunk of his car that led to speculation of his role. And as we can see from this January 2015 article, just days before the February 20, 2014, sniper attacks, there was concern about reports of large caches of weapons being stolen by anti-government protestors in Lviv. When Western officials met with Parubiy and told him to keep the Lviv guns away from Kiev. And while Parubiy denies that those guns ever made it to Kiev, he did admit to telling them that “if Western governments did not take firmer action against Yanukovych, the whole process could gain a very threatening dimension”. In this same article, Pashinskyy acknowledges leading large numbers of panicked Ukrainian security forces safely out of Kiev during period when the Yanukovych government was collapsing and the security services feared being attacked by angry mobs:

    The New York Times

    Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted

    By ANDREW HIGGINS and ANDREW E. KRAMER
    JAN. 3, 2015

    KIEV, Ukraine — Ashen-faced after a sleepless night of marathon negotiations, Viktor F. Yanukovych hesitated, shaking his pen above the text placed before him in the chandeliered hall. Then, under the unsmiling gaze of European diplomats and his political enemies, the beleaguered Ukrainian president scrawled his signature, sealing a deal that he believed would keep him in power, at least for a few more months.

    But even as Mr. Yanukovych sat down with his political foes at the presidential administration building on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 21, his last authority was fast draining away. In a flurry of frantic calls to opposition lawmakers, police officials and security commanders were making clear that they were more worried about their own safety than protecting Mr. Yanukovych and his government.

    By that evening, he was gone, evacuated from the capital by helicopter, setting the stage for the most severe bout of East-West tensions since the Cold War.

    Russia has attributed Mr. Yanukovych’s ouster to what it portrays as a violent, “neo-fascist” coup supported and even choreographed by the West and dressed up as a popular uprising. The Kremlin has cited this assertion, along with historical ties, as the main justification for its annexation of Crimea in March and its subsequent support for an armed revolt by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s industrial heartland in the east.

    Few outside the Russian propaganda bubble ever seriously entertained the Kremlin’s line. But almost a year after the fall of Mr. Yanukovych’s government, questions remain about how and why it collapsed so quickly and completely.

    An investigation by The New York Times into the final hours of Mr. Yanukovych’s rule — based on interviews with prominent players, including former commanders of the Berkut riot police and other security units, telephone records and other documents — shows that the president was not so much overthrown as cast adrift by his own allies, and that Western officials were just as surprised by the meltdown as anyone else.

    The allies’ desertion, fueled in large part by fear, was accelerated by the seizing by protesters of a large stock of weapons in the west of the country. But just as important, the review of the final hours shows, was the panic in government ranks created by Mr. Yanukovych’s own efforts to make peace.

    At dawn on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 20, a bedraggled pro-European protest movement controlled just a few hundred square yards, at best, of scorched and soot-smeared pavement in central Kiev. They had gathered there the previous November, enraged that Mr. Yanukovych, under heavy pressure from Moscow, had abruptly turned away from a long-planned trade deal with the European Union.

    Their fortunes dimmed further on Thursday morning when a hail of gunfire cut down scores of protesters as they pushed to break out of their shrinking encampment and expand their reach into the heavily guarded government district.

    By Thursday evening, however, the shock created by that bloodshed, the worst in the Ukrainian capital since World War II, had prompted a mass defection by the president’s allies in Parliament and prodded Mr. Yanukovych to join negotiations with a trio of opposition politicians.

    That was when the phone calls from the security officers began, said one of those opposition lawmakers, Sergey Pashinsky. Beginning in the late morning, they became a torrent as the day progressed, each making the same desperate plea: Help! We want to get out of Kiev and need escorts to get through streets clogged with angry protesters.

    “They all had the same message,” Mr. Pashinsky recalled.

    The security officers said in interviews that they were alarmed by language in the truce deal that called for an investigation of the killing of protesters. They feared that a desperate Mr. Yanukovych was ready to abandon the very people who had protected him, particularly those in the lower ranks who had borne the brunt of the street battles.

    One of the units that pulled out on Friday afternoon was a 30-man Berkut squad from Sumska, a region east of Kiev. Its acting commander, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Vladimir, because he fears retribution for his past service, said that he had tried calling his superiors at the Ukraine Interior Ministry all morning on Friday, Feb. 21, to get instructions, but that their phones had all gone dead.

    “The minister had disappeared, and nobody was taking calls,” he recalled. He finally reached a middle-ranking official at the ministry. Advised to leave as “all the chiefs are running away,” Vladimir contacted Mr. Pashinsky and requested an escort out of town. “We were all worried about being hung out to dry,” he said. He said he was not ordered to leave but simply told that he and his men could go if they wanted.

    Aleksandr Khodakovsky, who in February commanded an elite unit of Alfa special forces guarding the headquarters of Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, was also having doubts.

    “We started to understand that there would be no central government, that it was falling apart,” Mr. Khodakovsky recalled in a recent interview in Donetsk, where he now leads a battalion of armed pro-Russian separatists. “We understood that all the mediation of the Europeans would lead to nothing.”

    A Changing Atmosphere

    Along with many other commanders, he believed that a tough response to protesters by Mr. Yanukovych in November or December could easily have cleared Kiev’s Independence Square, known as Maidan, the epicenter of the pro-European protest movement.

    By February, however, it was too late.

    “The atmosphere was changing” in the elite police units, Mr. Khodakovsky said. “Everybody understood the government was not going to take decisive action. We understood that all the crimes we were going to commit clearing the square, in the last breath of the old government, would all be blamed on us.”

    Security forces were also thrown into a panic by rumors, fanned by the protesters themselves, about the whereabouts of hundreds of guns seized on the night of Feb. 18 in Lviv, a bastion of pro-European fervor 300 miles west of Kiev near the Polish border. The weapons were said to be on their way to Kiev to add to an already growing arsenal of hunting rifles, pistols, Molotov cocktails and metal clubs.

    According to the chief of police in Lviv, Dmytro D. Zagariya, around 1,200 weapons, mostly pistols and Kalashnikov rifles, were seized in raids on five district police stations and the headquarters of the Interior Ministry’s western command. Only 300 of these, he said, were recovered by the authorities. He said there was no evidence that any of the missing guns had been used in or even reached Kiev.

    Western diplomats in Kiev, including the American ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt, also heard about the guns grabbed in Lviv and worried that, if brought to Kiev, they would turn what had begun as a peaceful protest movement that enjoyed wide sympathy in the West into an armed insurrection that would quickly lose this good will.

    As the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland and a senior French diplomat met Mr. Yanukovych to negotiate a truce on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20, at the presidential offices, Mr. Pyatt and several European envoys met at the German Embassy with Andriy Parubiy, the chief of the protesters’ security forces, and told him to keep the Lviv guns away from Kiev.

    “We told him: ‘Don’t let these guns come to Kiev. If they come, that will change the whole situation,’ ” Mr. Pyatt recalled telling Mr. Parubiy, who turned up for the meeting wearing a black balaclava.

    In a recent interview in Kiev, Mr. Parubiy denied that the guns taken in Lviv ever got to Kiev, but added that the prospect that they might have provided a powerful lever to pressure both Mr. Yanukovych’s camp and Western governments.

    “I warned them that if Western governments did not take firmer action against Yanukovych, the whole process could gain a very threatening dimension,” he said.

    Andriy Tereschenko, a Berkut commander from Donetsk who was holed up with his men in the Cabinet Ministry, the government headquarters in Kiev, said that 16 of his men had already been shot on Feb. 18 and that he was terrified by the rumors of an armory of automatic weapons on its way from Lviv.

    “It was already an armed uprising, and it was going to get worse,” he said. “We understood why the weapons were taken, to bring them to Kiev.”

    Around 2 p.m. that Friday, just as European diplomats were gathering for the signing ceremony at the nearby presidential administration building, Mr. Tereschenko received a call from a deputy interior minister, Viktor Dubovik, with an order to leave the city. Mr. Dubovik, he said, put him in touch with the opposition lawmaker Mr. Pashinsky, who escorted the Berkut commander and his 60 or so men to the edge of town, from where they drove overnight by bus to Donetsk.

    Mr. Dubovik, who the authorities say has since fled Ukraine, could not be located for comment.

    Mr. Pashinsky estimated that in all, he arranged escorts out of the city for more than 5,000 officers from the riot police, Interior Ministry forces and other security units, like the special operations unit, Alfa. He said Mr. Dubovik was just one of the officials he worked with on the mass evacuation, but added that he did not know where the order to retreat had originated.

    ———-

    “Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted” by ANDREW HIGGINS and ANDREW E. KRAMER; The New York Times; 01/03/2015

    “Security forces were also thrown into a panic by rumors, fanned by the protesters themselves, about the whereabouts of hundreds of guns seized on the night of Feb. 18 in Lviv, a bastion of pro-European fervor 300 miles west of Kiev near the Polish border. The weapons were said to be on their way to Kiev to add to an already growing arsenal of hunting rifles, pistols, Molotov cocktails and metal clubs.”

    So on February 18th, 2014, hundreds of guns were seized in Lviv and were rumored to be on their way to Kiev. Western envoys met with Andriy Parubiy, then the chief of the protesters’ security forces, and told him to keep the Lviv guns away from Kiev. And while Parubiy asserts that those guns never reached Kiev, he did admit that the prospect of those guns reaching Kiev acted as a powerful lever. He also admits, “I warned them that if Western governments did not take firmer action against Yanukovych, the whole process could gain a very threatening dimension”:


    According to the chief of police in Lviv, Dmytro D. Zagariya, around 1,200 weapons, mostly pistols and Kalashnikov rifles, were seized in raids on five district police stations and the headquarters of the Interior Ministry’s western command. Only 300 of these, he said, were recovered by the authorities. He said there was no evidence that any of the missing guns had been used in or even reached Kiev.

    Western diplomats in Kiev, including the American ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt, also heard about the guns grabbed in Lviv and worried that, if brought to Kiev, they would turn what had begun as a peaceful protest movement that enjoyed wide sympathy in the West into an armed insurrection that would quickly lose this good will.

    As the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland and a senior French diplomat met Mr. Yanukovych to negotiate a truce on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20, at the presidential offices, Mr. Pyatt and several European envoys met at the German Embassy with Andriy Parubiy, the chief of the protesters’ security forces, and told him to keep the Lviv guns away from Kiev.

    “We told him: ‘Don’t let these guns come to Kiev. If they come, that will change the whole situation,’ ” Mr. Pyatt recalled telling Mr. Parubiy, who turned up for the meeting wearing a black balaclava.

    In a recent interview in Kiev, Mr. Parubiy denied that the guns taken in Lviv ever got to Kiev, but added that the prospect that they might have provided a powerful lever to pressure both Mr. Yanukovych’s camp and Western governments.

    “I warned them that if Western governments did not take firmer action against Yanukovych, the whole process could gain a very threatening dimension,” he said.

    And the whole process did indeed gain a very threatening dimension, just as Parubiy warned.

    And then there were these admissions from Serhiy Pashinskyy (Sergey Pashinsky) that he helped escort members of the security services out of Kiev as the situation deteriorated:


    That was when the phone calls from the security officers began, said one of those opposition lawmakers, Sergey Pashinsky. Beginning in the late morning, they became a torrent as the day progressed, each making the same desperate plea: Help! We want to get out of Kiev and need escorts to get through streets clogged with angry protesters.

    “They all had the same message,” Mr. Pashinsky recalled.

    Andriy Tereschenko, a Berkut commander from Donetsk who was holed up with his men in the Cabinet Ministry, the government headquarters in Kiev, said that 16 of his men had already been shot on Feb. 18 and that he was terrified by the rumors of an armory of automatic weapons on its way from Lviv.

    “It was already an armed uprising, and it was going to get worse,” he said. “We understood why the weapons were taken, to bring them to Kiev.”

    Around 2 p.m. that Friday, just as European diplomats were gathering for the signing ceremony at the nearby presidential administration building, Mr. Tereschenko received a call from a deputy interior minister, Viktor Dubovik, with an order to leave the city. Mr. Dubovik, he said, put him in touch with the opposition lawmaker Mr. Pashinsky, who escorted the Berkut commander and his 60 or so men to the edge of town, from where they drove overnight by bus to Donetsk.

    Mr. Dubovik, who the authorities say has since fled Ukraine, could not be located for comment.

    Mr. Pashinsky estimated that in all, he arranged escorts out of the city for more than 5,000 officers from the riot police, Interior Ministry forces and other security units, like the special operations unit, Alfa. He said Mr. Dubovik was just one of the officials he worked with on the mass evacuation, but added that he did not know where the order to retreat had originated.

    And that admission is particularly interesting given the prior claims by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko that the Ukrainian public will be shocked when they learn that the man who helped so-called “black hundred” of police task force Berkut flee Kyiv and deliberately drowned their weapons to conceal evidence was part of the Maidan protests.

    So that’s all why this emerging story of terror charges against Nadia Savchenko, and her counter-charges, is going to be something to watch unfold.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 15, 2018, 2:41 pm
  8. It sounds like the Ukrainian government has officially halted any cooperation with the Mueller investigations into Paul Manafort’s activities in Ukraine. Specifically, the Ukrainian investigations into Paul Manafort ties to the “Black Ledger”, the book that prompted Manafort’s removal as Donald Trump’s campaign manager after it was discovered in 2016 allegedly containing the payouts by the Yanukovych government to various people including Manafort, have been frozen. Additionally, Manafort’s long-time partner in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, has been allowed to leave Ukraine and is presumed to be residing in Russia.

    These moves are being characterized by people in the Ukrainian government as being done purely out of a desire to not piss off the Trump administration so the US will provide Ukraine with aid, in particular the recently approved Javelin missiles.

    And as we’re going to see in the second article excerpt, the investigation into Paul Manafort and the Black Ledger actually increases the potential threat the ledger poses to dozens of those other Ukrainian officials whose names also showed up in the ledger. How so? Well, the authenticity of the ledger has been in dispute. Only one Ukrainian official had had their signature found in the ledger confirmed to be authentic. But then, last year, financial records found by the new tenants in Manfort’s old office in Kiev last year appeared to demonstrated that Manafort’s firm did indeed receive at least $1.2 million of the payments listed to his name (out of $12.5 million in total to Manafort in the ledger), lending credibility to the rest of the ledger. This was in April of 2017.

    And as we’ll see in the third article below, the official government investigation into the Black Ledger appeared to have already ground to halt by June of 2017 after getting transferred from the ostensibly non-political anti-corruption prosecutor’s office to the Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s office. As the article also notes, the “Black Ledger” implicated dozens of Ukrainian officials, including many of those in the current government. Not just former members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. In other words, the Black Ledger likely includes payouts to people across Ukraine’s political spectrum.

    So that’s all some of the context to keep in mind as we learn that Ukraine has halted its cooperation with the Mueller probe and is publicly talking about how appeasing Trump was their primary motivation:

    The New York Times

    Ukraine, Seeking U.S. Missiles, Halted Cooperation With Mueller Investigation

    By Andrew E. Kramer
    May 2, 2018

    KIEV, Ukraine — In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

    But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.

    The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.

    The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.

    The State Department issued an export license for the missiles on Dec. 22, and on March 2 the Pentagon announced final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units. The order to halt investigations into Mr. Manafort came in early April.

    Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament who is an ally of President Petro O. Poroshenko, readily acknowledged that the intention in Kiev was to put investigations into Mr. Manafort’s activities “in the long-term box.”

    “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” Mr. Ariev said in an interview. “We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.”

    The Ukrainian investigators had been tracing money paid to Mr. Manafort and a New York law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, by figures in the political party of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the Russian-leaning Ukrainian president who was ousted by street protesters and fled the country in 2014. Mr. Manafort was a longtime adviser to Mr. Yanukovych, working with him to revamp his public image and acquire a pro-Western patina that helped him win the presidency in 2010.

    The new government established a special prosecutor to pursue corruption in the former administration. By late last year, the prosecutor, Serhiy Horbatyuk, had opened about 3,000 cases, including four related to Mr. Manafort’s consulting for the former president and his political party.

    The order issued in April isolated these four investigations. The cases were not closed, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement, but the order blocked Mr. Horbatyuk from issuing subpoenas for evidence or interviewing witnesses.

    “We have no authority to continue our investigation,” Mr. Horbatyuk said in an interview.

    One inquiry dealt with possible money laundering in a single $750,000 payment to Mr. Manafort from a Ukrainian shell company. The payment formed one part of the multimillion dollar transfers to Mr. Manafort from politicians in Ukraine that underpin indictments filed by Mr. Mueller in federal court in Washington and Virginia. Before the case was frozen, prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Ukrainian banks.

    Another concerned a former chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s foreign relations committee, Vitaly Kalyuzhny, who had signed nine of 22 entries designated for Mr. Manafort in a secret ledger of political payoffs uncovered after the 2014 revolution. The ledger showed payouts totaling $12.5 million for Mr. Manafort.

    The handwritten accounting document, called in Ukraine the Black Ledger, is an evidential linchpin for investigating corruption in the former government. Mr. Manafort denied receiving under-the-table payments from the party and his spokesman said the ledger might be a forgery.

    The other two cases looked at Skadden Arps, which wrote a report with Mr. Manafort’s participation that was widely seen as whitewashing the politically motivated arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Yanukovych’s principal rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko.

    Two months before Ukraine’s government froze the cases, Mr. Horbatyuk reached out to Mr. Mueller’s office with a formal offer to cooperate by sharing evidence and leads. Mr. Horbatyuk said that he sent a letter in January and did not receive a reply, but that the offer was now moot, since he has lost the authority to investigate.

    But entries in the ledger appear to bolster Mr. Mueller’s money laundering and tax evasion case against Mr. Manafort, said Serhiy Leshchenko, a lawmaker who has closely followed the investigation. They indicate, for example, payments from Ukraine to a Cypriot company, Global Highway Limited, that was also named in an indictment Mr. Mueller filed in federal court in Virginia this year. The company covered hundreds of thousands of dollars of Mr. Manafort’s bills at a high-end men’s clothing store and antique shop in New York.

    In another move seeming to hinder Mr. Mueller’s investigation, Ukrainian law enforcement allowed a potential witness to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to leave for Russia, putting him out of reach for questioning.

    The special counsel’s office has identified the man, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, Mr. Manafort’s former office manager in Kiev, as tied to a Russian intelligence agency. Mr. Kilimnik was also under investigation in Ukraine over espionage, but no charges were filed before he left the country, sometime after June. During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Kilimnik met twice with Mr. Manafort. In December, a court filing in the United States said Mr. Kilimnik was “currently based in Russia.”

    But in the United States, Mr. Mueller’s office appears still keenly interested in Mr. Manafort’s ties to Russia. Among the questions Mr. Mueller would like to ask Mr. Trump, according to a list provided to the president’s lawyers, was: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”

    In Kiev, the missile sale was seen as a political victory for Mr. Poroshenko, indicating American backing for his government in the war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists and against the threat of a wider Russian intervention in the country. After Ukraine announced on April 30 that it had received the missiles, Mr. Poroshenko posted on Facebook that “the long-awaited weapon arrived in the Ukrainian Army.”

    Apart from the missiles, the Ukrainian government is propped up with about $600 million in bilateral aid from the United States annually. Mr. Poroshenko’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

    David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy prosecutor general who is now in the political opposition, said he did not believe that the general prosecutor had coordinated with anybody in the United States on the decision to suspend the investigations in Ukraine, or that there had been a quid pro quo for the missile sale.

    Ukrainian politicians, he said, concluded on their own that any help prosecuting Mr. Manafort could bring down Mr. Trump’s wrath.

    “Can you imagine,” Mr. Sakvarelidze said, “that Trump writes on Twitter, ‘The United States isn’t going to support any corrupt post-Soviet leaders, including in Ukraine.’ That would be the end of him.”

    ———-

    “Ukraine, Seeking U.S. Missiles, Halted Cooperation With Mueller Investigation” by Andrew E. Kramer; The New York Times; 05/02/2018

    “The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.”

    The investigations into Paul Manafort are “too sensitive” for the Ukrainian government to pursue at this point. That appears to be the official line coming from the Ukrainian government.

    And while it’s not surprising that the government took such a line, it is rather remarkable that openly talking about the halting of these investigations into Manafort over concerns of pissing off Trump isn’t, itself, deemed to be ‘too sensitive’ too. It’s like engaging in corruption to please someone and then telling the world about it.

    That’s part of why it’s important to keep in mind that Ukrainian politicians have another massive reason to see an end to the investigations into Manafort: those investigations in Manafort overlap with investigations into dozens of Ukrainian politicians including many of those in power today. And that motive might explain so many Ukrainians are so willing to openly talking about how they’re killing the investigations into Manafort to avoid angering Trump.

    The timing of this open talk by Ukrainian officials of a kind of quid pro quo with the Trump administration is also pretty interesting: The State Department issued an export license for the missiles on Dec. 22, the Pentagon announced final approval on March 2nd, and the Ukrainian government officially orders a halt investigations into Manafort in April. It’s like going out of their way to be corrupt in order to placate Trump:


    The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.

    The State Department issued an export license for the missiles on Dec. 22, and on March 2 the Pentagon announced final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units. The order to halt investigations into Mr. Manafort came in early April.

    Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament who is an ally of President Petro O. Poroshenko, readily acknowledged that the intention in Kiev was to put investigations into Mr. Manafort’s activities “in the long-term box.”

    “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” Mr. Ariev said in an interview. “We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.”

    And that official public discussion of the orders to not freeze the investigations into Manafort include special prosecutor Serhiy Horbatyuk who openly said in an interview, “We have no authority to continue our investigation”:


    The new government established a special prosecutor to pursue corruption in the former administration. By late last year, the prosecutor, Serhiy Horbatyuk, had opened about 3,000 cases, including four related to Mr. Manafort’s consulting for the former president and his political party.

    The order issued in April isolated these four investigations. The cases were not closed, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement, but the order blocked Mr. Horbatyuk from issuing subpoenas for evidence or interviewing witnesses.

    “We have no authority to continue our investigation,” Mr. Horbatyuk said in an interview.

    And note how the Black Ledger is described as an “evidential linchpin for investigating corruption in the former government,” underscoring the stakes involved with the Black Ledger. Because that corruption isn’t limited to the former government:


    The handwritten accounting document, called in Ukraine the Black Ledger, is an evidential linchpin for investigating corruption in the former government. Mr. Manafort denied receiving under-the-table payments from the party and his spokesman said the ledger might be a forgery.

    And for Manafort alone in the Black Ledger alleges a total $12.5 million in under-the-table payments. And one of the four Black Ledger investigations into Manafort involves the a former chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s foreign relations committee:


    One inquiry dealt with possible money laundering in a single $750,000 payment to Mr. Manafort from a Ukrainian shell company. The payment formed one part of the multimillion dollar transfers to Mr. Manafort from politicians in Ukraine that underpin indictments filed by Mr. Mueller in federal court in Washington and Virginia. Before the case was frozen, prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Ukrainian banks.

    Another concerned a former chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s foreign relations committee, Vitaly Kalyuzhny, who had signed nine of 22 entries designated for Mr. Manafort in a secret ledger of political payoffs uncovered after the 2014 revolution. The ledger showed payouts totaling $12.5 million for Mr. Manafort.

    And that investigation involving the former chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s foreign relations committee is an important fun fact to keep in mind regarding Manafort and his work with the “Hapsburg Group”, a group of former European loeaders hired to lobby the US and EU governments in favor of allowing Ukraine into a trade union with the EU and address lingering concerns over the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko, because that “Hapsburg Group” initiative was a major foreign government lobbying initiative being secretly handled by Manafort.

    Plus, when we read that the two other cases involved Skadden Arps, keep in mind that Skadden Arps is the firm employing Alex van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of Alfa bank founder German Khan (who happens to be Ukrainian) who was also working with Manafort as part of the “Hapsburg Group” initiative. So when we learn about the halting of these investigations in Paul Manafort, that includes Ukraine’s investigation into the Hapsburg Group:


    The other two cases looked at Skadden Arps, which wrote a report with Mr. Manafort’s participation that was widely seen as whitewashing the politically motivated arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Yanukovych’s principal rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko.

    Also note how Ukraine’s official refusal to work with Mueller’s investigation appears to have happened rather suddenly in the last few months, with a formal offer to Mueller given in January:


    Two months before Ukraine’s government froze the cases, Mr. Horbatyuk reached out to Mr. Mueller’s office with a formal offer to cooperate by sharing evidence and leads. Mr. Horbatyuk said that he sent a letter in January and did not receive a reply, but that the offer was now moot, since he has lost the authority to investigate.

    Finally, we learn that the Ukrainian government has allowed Konstantin Kilimnik to leave Ukraine, putting him out of reach for questioning:


    In another move seeming to hinder Mr. Mueller’s investigation, Ukrainian law enforcement allowed a potential witness to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to leave for Russia, putting him out of reach for questioning.

    The special counsel’s office has identified the man, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, Mr. Manafort’s former office manager in Kiev, as tied to a Russian intelligence agency. Mr. Kilimnik was also under investigation in Ukraine over espionage, but no charges were filed before he left the country, sometime after June. During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Kilimnik met twice with Mr. Manafort. In December, a court filing in the United States said Mr. Kilimnik was “currently based in Russia.”

    So, all in all, it’s pretty clear that the Ukrainian government really, really, really wants the world to know that it halted its investigations into Manafort in order to placate Donald Trump. It’s a rather odd public relations strategy that looks openly corrupt on its face, but that’s the image many of those in Ukraine’s government want to project.

    And while it’s tempting to assume that Donald Trump himself is the primary audience for this openly corrupt quid pro quo ‘no-investigation-in-exchange-for-arms’ arrangement, don’t forget that the Black Ledger investigation potentially implicates dozens of Ukrainian officials including those in the current government. So if the closure of the investigation into Manafort can help assist in obscuring the investigation into all the other Ukrainian officials, there’s going to be an incentive to emphasize to domestic Ukrainian audiences the ‘pleasing Trump’ angle to the halting of the Manafort investigations and deflect from ulterior motives.

    Along those lines, as the following article from April of 2017 points out, two of those Black Ledger entries on Paul Manafort were basically confirmed by documents found in the former Kiev office occupied by Manafort. And at that point in time only one other entry in the Black Ledger had been verified as authentic: Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, who is charged with receiving more than $160,000 from Party of Regions officials in 2012, when he was Ukraine’s main election official.

    So when those documents found in Manafort’s old office appeared to confirm two of those Black Ledger entries in April of last year, that discovery was important for the rest of the Ukrainian political establishment because it lent credibility to the entire Black Ledger:

    Associated Press

    AP Exclusive: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout
    By JACK GILLUM, CHAD DAY and JEFF HORWITZ
    Apr. 12, 2017

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.

    Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.

    Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.

    The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump’s campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.

    Separately, Manafort is also under scrutiny as part of congressional and FBI investigations into possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia’s government under President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. The payments detailed in the ledger and confirmed by the documents obtained by the AP are unrelated to the 2016 presidential campaign and came years before Manafort worked as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman.

    In a statement to the AP on Tuesday, Manafort did not deny that his firm received the money but said “any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work that was provided. I invoiced my clients and they paid via wire transfer, which I received through a U.S. bank.”

    Manafort noted that he agreed to be paid according to his “clients’ preferred financial institutions and instructions.”

    On Wednesday, Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni provided an additional statement to the AP, saying that Manafort received all of his payments via wire transfers conducted through the international banking system.

    “Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine was totally open and appropriate, and wire transfers for international work are perfectly legal,” Maloni said.

    He noted that Manafort had never been paid in cash. Instead, he said Manafort’s exclusive use of wire transfers for payment undermines the descriptions of the ledger last year given by Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities and a lawmaker that the ledger detailed cash payments.

    Previously, Manafort and Maloni have maintained the ledger was fabricated and said no public evidence existed that Manafort or others received payments recorded in it.

    The AP, however, identified in the records two payments received by Manafort that aligned with the ledger: one for $750,000 that a Ukrainian lawmaker said last month was part of a money-laundering effort that should be investigated by U.S. authorities. The other was $455,249 and also matched a ledger entry.

    The newly obtained records also expand the global scope of Manafort’s financial activities related to his Ukrainian political consulting, because both payments came from companies once registered in the Central American country of Belize. Last month, the AP reported that the U.S. government has examined Manafort’s financial transactions in the Mediterranean country of Cyprus as part of its probe.

    Federal prosecutors have been looking into Manafort’s work for years as part of an effort to recover Ukrainian assets stolen after the 2014 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia. No charges have been filed as part of the investigation.

    Manafort, a longtime Republican political operative, led the presidential campaign from March until August last year when Trump asked him to resign. The resignation came after a tumultuous week in which The New York Times revealed that Manafort’s name appeared in the Ukraine ledger — although the newspaper said at the time that officials were unsure whether Manafort actually received the money — and after the AP separately reported that he had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions.

    On Wednesday, Maloni told the AP that Manafort intends to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work he did on behalf of political interests in Ukraine.

    Manafort began discussions with the U.S. government about his lobbying activities after Trump hired him in March 2016, Maloni said, although it was unclear whether those conversations occurred before or after Trump forced Manafort to resign in August. By registering retroactively, Manafort will be acknowledging that he failed to properly disclose his work to the Justice Department as required by federal law.

    Manafort has recently been given guidance by federal authorities related to whether he should register as a foreign agent, Maloni said. Asked by the AP whether Manafort intends to register as a foreign agent, Maloni said, “Yes, he is registering.”

    Also Wednesday, one of the Washington lobbying firms involved in that covert campaign, the Podesta Group Inc., formally registered with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In doing so, it acknowledged that its work at the time could have principally benefited the Ukrainian government. The firm, run by the brother of Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta, reported being paid more than $1.2 million for its efforts. It cited unspecified “information brought to light in recent months” and conversations with Justice Department employees as the reason for its decision.

    The other firm, Mercury LLC, later said it also will register as a foreign agent over its work on the campaign.

    Officials with the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is investigating corruption under Yanukovych, have said they believe the ledger is genuine. But they have previously noted that they have no way of knowing whether Manafort received the money listed next to his name. The bureau said it is not investigating Manafort because he is not a Ukrainian citizen.

    Still, Manafort’s work continues to draw attention in Ukrainian politics.

    Last month, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko revealed an invoice bearing the letterhead of Manafort’s namesake company, Davis Manafort, that Leshchenko said was crafted to conceal a payment to Manafort as a purchase of 501 computers.

    The AP provided to Manafort the amounts of the payments, dates and number of the bank account where they were received. Manafort told the AP that he was unable to review his own banking records showing receipt of the payments because his bank destroyed the records after a standard 7-year retention period. He said Tuesday the “computer sales contract is a fraud.”

    “The signature is not mine, and I didn’t sell computers,” he said in a statement. “What is clear, however, is individuals with political motivations are taking disparate pieces of information and distorting their significance through a campaign of smear and innuendo.”

    Leshchenko said last month the 2009 invoice was one of about 50 pages of documents, including private paperwork and copies of employee-issued debit cards, that were found in Manafort’s former Kiev office by a new tenant.

    The amount of the invoice — $750,000— and the payment date of Oct. 14, 2009, matches one entry on the ledger indicating payments to Manafort from the Party of Regions. The invoice was addressed to Neocom Systems Ltd., a company formerly registered in Belize, and included the account and routing numbers and postal address for Manafort’s account at a branch of Wachovia National Bank in Alexandria, Virginia.

    The AP had previously been unable to independently verify the $750,000 payment went to a Manafort company, but the newly obtained financial records reflect Manafort’s receipt of that payment. The records show that Davis Manafort received the amount from Neocom Systems the day after the date of the invoice.

    A $455,249 payment in November 2007 also matches the amount in the ledger. It came from Graten Alliance Ltd., a company that had also been registered in Belize. It is now inactive.

    In an interview with the AP, Leshchenko contended that Yanukovych, as Ukraine’s leader, paid Manafort money that came from his government’s budget and was “stolen from Ukrainian citizens.” He said: “Money received by Manafort has to be returned to the Ukrainian people.”

    Leshchenko said U.S. authorities should investigate what he described as corrupt deals between Manafort and Yanukovych. “It’s about a U.S. citizen and money was transferred to a U.S. bank account,” he said.

    Maloni accused Leshchenko on Wednesday of changing his story, saying Leshchenko had previously said the ledger detailed cash payments but now said that wire transfers support his allegations.

    Maloni said Leshchenko’s allegations were politically motivated because Manafort once supported an opposing political party.

    “There is absolutely nothing improper with this method of payment and there is no basis to give any credibility to the current Leshchenko allegations to the contrary,” Maloni said.

    Dozens of Ukrainian political figures mentioned in the Black Ledger are under investigation in Ukraine. The anti-corruption bureau, which has been looking into the Black Ledger, publicly confirmed the authenticity of the signature of one top official mentioned there. In December, the bureau accused Mykhaylo Okhendovsky of receiving more than $160,000 from Party of Regions officials in 2012, when he was Ukraine’s main election official.

    The bureau said it would identify more suspects in the coming months.

    ———-

    “AP Exclusive: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout” by JACK GILLUM, CHAD DAY and JEFF HORWITZ; Associated Press; 04/12/2017

    Dozens of Ukrainian political figures mentioned in the Black Ledger are under investigation in Ukraine. The anti-corruption bureau, which has been looking into the Black Ledger, publicly confirmed the authenticity of the signature of one top official mentioned there. In December, the bureau accused Mykhaylo Okhendovsky of receiving more than $160,000 from Party of Regions officials in 2012, when he was Ukraine’s main election official.”

    Yep, of the dozens of Ukrainian political figures mentioned in the Black Ledger, the entries detailing payouts to only one official, Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, had been public confirmed by Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau as of April of last year.

    But then documents were uncovered confirming $1.2 million of the alleged Black Ledger to Manafort:

    Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.

    Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.

    Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.

    And those documents appear to have been simply left behind by Manafort in his Kiev office, although Manafort called it a forgery:


    Last month, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko revealed an invoice bearing the letterhead of Manafort’s namesake company, Davis Manafort, that Leshchenko said was crafted to conceal a payment to Manafort as a purchase of 501 computers.

    The AP provided to Manafort the amounts of the payments, dates and number of the bank account where they were received. Manafort told the AP that he was unable to review his own banking records showing receipt of the payments because his bank destroyed the records after a standard 7-year retention period. He said Tuesday the “computer sales contract is a fraud.”

    “The signature is not mine, and I didn’t sell computers,” he said in a statement. “What is clear, however, is individuals with political motivations are taking disparate pieces of information and distorting their significance through a campaign of smear and innuendo.”

    Leshchenko said last month the 2009 invoice was one of about 50 pages of documents, including private paperwork and copies of employee-issued debit cards, that were found in Manafort’s former Kiev office by a new tenant.

    The amount of the invoice — $750,000— and the payment date of Oct. 14, 2009, matches one entry on the ledger indicating payments to Manafort from the Party of Regions. The invoice was addressed to Neocom Systems Ltd., a company formerly registered in Belize, and included the account and routing numbers and postal address for Manafort’s account at a branch of Wachovia National Bank in Alexandria, Virginia.

    The AP had previously been unable to independently verify the $750,000 payment went to a Manafort company, but the newly obtained financial records reflect Manafort’s receipt of that payment. The records show that Davis Manafort received the amount from Neocom Systems the day after the date of the invoice.

    A $455,249 payment in November 2007 also matches the amount in the ledger. It came from Graten Alliance Ltd., a company that had also been registered in Belize. It is now inactive.

    And those discovered documents confirming two of the payments to Manafort bolstered the credibility of the Black Ledger that had been attacked as a politically motivated fabrication:


    The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump’s campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.

    Previously, Manafort and Maloni have maintained the ledger was fabricated and said no public evidence existed that Manafort or others received payments recorded in it.

    The AP, however, identified in the records two payments received by Manafort that aligned with the ledger: one for $750,000 that a Ukrainian lawmaker said last month was part of a money-laundering effort that should be investigated by U.S. authorities. The other was $455,249 and also matched a ledger entry.

    Officials with the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which is investigating corruption under Yanukovych, have said they believe the ledger is genuine. But they have previously noted that they have no way of knowing whether Manafort received the money listed next to his name. The bureau said it is not investigating Manafort because he is not a Ukrainian citizen.

    And as of April 2017, Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau was projecting it would identify more Black Ledger suspect in coming months:


    The bureau said it would identify more suspects in the coming months

    So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the following article from a few months later in June of 2017, about how the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office passed the Black Ledger documents to the Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s office. And as a result of that transfer, the Black Ledger investigation fell under political control and had already ground to a halt:

    Kyiv Post

    Black ledger’ investigation appears to come to a halt

    By Veronika Melkozerova.
    Published June 15, 2017. Updated June 15 2017 at 9:21 pm

    After a year of investigation by Ukrainian law enforcement, the case of the black ledger — a secret, handwritten list of $2 billion in shady payments by the political party of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — appears to have stalled.

    When reports of the finding of the ledger first surfaced last year, the scandal led to the resignation of the chairman of Donald J. Trump’s presidential election campaign team, Paul Manafort, whose name was found in the ledger next to sums of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    But the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine has now passed the black ledger documents to the Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, according to report published by the office on June 9.

    Furthermore, due to a lack of evidence, anti-corruption prosecutors have officially stopped the pre-trial investigation into Mykhailo Okhendovskiy, the head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission and the only person in the black ledger case to be given notice of being a suspect.

    “The fact that the black ledger case was passed to the Prosecutor General’s Office means it will from now on be under political control,” Viktor Trepak, the former deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine, wrote on Facebook on June 11.

    The documents show that the party paid bribes worth $2 billion, Trepak said in a May 28, 2016 interview.

    “This case is dangerous not only for Yanukovych allies, but also for the current Ukrainian government, as it proves they had secret ties. It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger, which I consider the most important high-profile corruption case in Ukraine,” he added.

    But Sergii Horbatuk, the head of Special Investigations Department of Prosecutor General’s Office and also the main investigator of the EuroMaidan killings, told the Kyiv Post on June 14 that detectives from the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), a supposedly politically independent agency, will continue to work with his department on the black ledger materials.

    “The black ledger was passed to us, as it is an important evidence base in several investigations of our department, in particular, the case of the usurpation of power by Yanukovych, and the supposed creation of a criminal gang on the basis of the Party of Regions,” Horbatuk said.

    But the prosecutor said he understood Trepak’s concerns and didn’t exclude that somebody might indeed try to influence or slow down the investigation.

    “There are some risks of possible political influence in the case, but this could only happen if public interest in … the black ledger case falls,” Horbatuk added.

    Much noise, little sense

    Sergii Leshchenko, a Bloc of Petro Poroshenko lawmaker and former journalist, obtained the black ledger documents together with Trepak last year. On May 30, 2016, Trepak passed them to the NABU.

    The Ukrainska Pravda news website published an article on May 31, 2016, about the Ukrainian Party of Regions making shady payments to top Ukrainian officials.

    The black ledger is alleged to show how a Kremlin-backed oligarchic political force gained absolute power in Ukraine.

    Ukrainska Pravda has reported that the Party of Regions spent more than $66 million on paid PR on Ukrainian TV channels, radio, and the regional press, as well paying for services from people whose names and initials were identical to top Ukrainian officials, such as Okhendovskiy, former Justice Minister of Ukraine Olena Lukash, Odesa Oblast Council Head Mykola Pundyk, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine Leonid Kozhara, and many others.

    In August, the NABU published a report on Manafort’s name being found in the black ledger alongside a list of payments, sparking suspicion that the former adviser to Yanukovych had been involved in bribery, receiving an undeclared $750,000 payment from Yanukovych’s party.

    Soon after, Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign amid an international scandal.

    However, after Trump was elected U.S. president in November, Nazar Kholodnytskiy, the head of the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, told the zn.ua news website there were no grounds to press charges against Manafort.

    He said only Manafort’s last name was found in the Party of Region’s black ledger, and the investigators were unable to prove the authenticity of the signature in the ledger.

    In January, the international news website Politico claimed that via the black ledger case, Ukrainian officials had been attempting to aid Hilary Clinton’s presidential election campaign.

    “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by … (disseminating) documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election,” the article read.

    Yaroslav Hordiyevych, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson, in an email to Kyiv Post on June 15 said that the office would not speculate about the political implications of the case.

    “We didn’t support the (release of information) by Leshchenko and the NABU,” Hordiyevych wrote.

    “Moreover, during a meeting with NABU detectives on the second day of the investigation, the head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office strictly forbade the release of any details of the investigation,” Hordiyevych wrote.

    Hordiyevych added that the NABU had no jurisdiction to investigate Manafort’s involvement in the black ledger, as he is a foreign citizen.

    ———–

    “Black ledger’ investigation appears to come to a halt” by Veronika Melkozerova; Kyiv Post; 06/15/2017

    “The fact that the black ledger case was passed to the Prosecutor General’s Office means it will from now on be under political control,” Viktor Trepak, the former deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine, wrote on Facebook on June 11.”

    So in April of 2017 we have the anti-corruption bureau announcing more suspects in coming months, but by June of 2017 we learn that the anti-corruption bureau passed the Black Ledger to the Prosecutor General’s Office, putting the investigation under much more direct political control. And that political control is particularly relevant because it’s not just Yanokovych allies at risk from the Black Ledger. Plenty of people in the current Poroshenko-led government could also be at risk if this investigation continues:


    The documents show that the party paid bribes worth $2 billion, Trepak said in a May 28, 2016 interview.

    “This case is dangerous not only for Yanukovych allies, but also for the current Ukrainian government, as it proves they had secret ties. It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger, which I consider the most important high-profile corruption case in Ukraine,” he added.

    The Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office responds by noting that detectives from the supposedly politically independent anti-corruption bureau will continue working with them on the case. Of course, that was in June of 2017, and the situation has changed as we’ve seen.

    Also note how the Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office is also the main investigator for the EuroMaidan sniper attacks. And as we’ve seen, that investigation into those sniper killings could very well point back to Paul Manafort and reveal that Manafort was effectively working with the goal of getting Ukraine into the EU’s orbit and prosecutors have already warned that members of the Maidan revolution played in role in organizing the killings. So when we learn that the Black Ledger investigation is under political control, keep in mind that the sniper investigation is under the same control:


    But Sergii Horbatuk, the head of Special Investigations Department of Prosecutor General’s Office and also the main investigator of the EuroMaidan killings, told the Kyiv Post on June 14 that detectives from the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), a supposedly politically independent agency, will continue to work with his department on the black ledger materials.

    “The black ledger was passed to us, as it is an important evidence base in several investigations of our department, in particular, the case of the usurpation of power by Yanukovych, and the supposed creation of a criminal gang on the basis of the Party of Regions,” Horbatuk said.

    But the prosecutor said he understood Trepak’s concerns and didn’t exclude that somebody might indeed try to influence or slow down the investigation.

    “There are some risks of possible political influence in the case, but this could only happen if public interest in … the black ledger case falls,” Horbatuk added.

    So that’s all something to keep in mind regarding the recent declarations by the Ukrainian government of the halting of the investigation into Paul Manafort in order to placate Donald Trump:

    1. The Black Ledger investigation fell under political control last year and appeared to have already been halted by June of last year.

    2. The more credible the Black Ledger investigation into Manafort appears, the more credible all the other Black Ledger entries appear. And those ledger entries probably aren’t going to be limited to Party of Regions officials.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 8, 2018, 2:01 pm
  9. In light of the reports of the Ukrainian government shutting down cooperation with the Mueller probe – i.e. halting the investigations into Manafort’s alleged payouts listed in the Black Ledger and allowing Konstantin Kilimnik to leave Ukraine – here’s a pair of article that describe how Manafort and Kilimnik first started working together. The two pieces – a 2016 piece from Meduza.io and a 2017 piece from the Wall Street Journal – actually give somewhat differing accounts, so it’s worth looking at where they agree and diverge because an interesting picture emerges.

    First, let’s take a look at the following 2016 profile of Kilimnik published by Meduza, a Russian-language publication based in Latvia. The sources for the article are all anonymous and characterized as being close to Kilimnik, so there’s the obvious ‘buyer beware’ element to content, but note that Meduza is staffed by Russian journalists with a distinct anti-Putin/Kremlin outlook (which is why it’s based in Latvia).

    The profile contains some important facts about Kilimnik that are rather critical to keep in mind. First, Kilimnik does indeed have ties to Russia’s GRU through his job at the Military University for Foreign Languages (known today as the Military University of the Ministry of Defense). And while that’s typically characterized as being a sign that he’s currently a tool of Russian intelligence, the profile notes that Kilimnik was born in Ukraine and did his work with the GRU before the collapse of the Soviet Union. So, just as all of the non-Russian people in the Soviet intelligence apparatus would have strained loyalties in the post-Soviet era, Kilimnik’s loyalties and ties with the GRU would obviously be potentially subject to some sort of strains following Ukraine’s independence.

    But a far bigger fun fact in Kilimnik’s background that should raise questions about his relationship with the GRU is the fact that his main occupation after leaving the Military University for Foreign Languages was to go to work for the DC-funded International Republican Institute (IRI). The IRI is known for its strong backing by John McCain and promoting regime change. Kilimnik worked for the IRI’s Moscow branch. So he certainly has worked in Russia for a number of years, but much of that was as an IRI employee.

    Note that, as we’re going to see in the WSJ article, Kilimnik wasn’t the only person from IRI’s Moscow branch to join Manafort’s team. Philip Griffin, the former head of the Moscow branch, also joined Manafort’s team.

    In 2004, Kilimnik returned to Ukraine for an IRI assignment. According to the Meduza profile, 2004 is also the year he was first approached with the offer to work on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions (it’s 2005 in the WSJ piece). And when they approached him he was assisting the campaign of was advising Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovych’s political opponent (and the ultimate winner following the “Orange Revolution” protests). Kilimnik was also investing enormous efforts into building Yushchenko’s alliance with Yulia Tymoshenko (who was also part of the “Orange Revolution” coalition). That’s the kind of background you wouldn’t expect from a die hard GRU agent in 2004 but it’s exactly the kind of activity you would expect from an IRI employee.

    According to the Meduza article, Kilimnik was still an employee of the IRI When Yanukovych’s allies first approached him in 2004 in the middle of the “Orange Revolution” protests. Yanukovych’s people concluded that advice from ‘the other side’ was going to be necessary to win the revote ordered by Ukraine’s Supreme Court in early December. The initial outreach to Kilimnik was through people tied to Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine and Yanukovych’s biggest donor. Akhmetov is considered the primary financial force behind the Party of Regions (now the Opposition Bloc). That’s when Kilimnik reportedly came up with Paul Manafort’s name.

    Manafort then held several meetings with Akhmetov, but declined to help with revote effort concluding that Yanukovych didn’t stand a chance. However, Manafort did conclude that Yanukovych still had a political future in Ukraine and agreed to consult Yanukovych after the 2004 election.

    So, according to the scenario described in the Meduza profile, Manafort wasn’t willing to help spoil a revote that could threaten the Western-backed Yushchenko, but he was willing to consult Yanokovych after the vote, which raises the question of whether or not part of Manafort’s original intent was to push Yankovych and the Party of Regions in a more Western-leaning direction. It’s a scenario that would be in keeping with Manafort’s work to get Ukraine accepted into a trade union with the EU in 2012-2013 (the “Hapsburg Group”). Although keep in minde that, as we’ll see in the following WSJ profile, it sounds like Manafort’s firm did indeed spend much of December in DC trying to gauge the US government’s attitude towards the Orange Revolution, so it’s entirely possible Manafort was willing to take the job of helping Yanukovych win the revote by lobbying the US government to pull its support for the Orange Revolution and concluded that it was effectively impossible.

    The IRI reportedly fired Kilimnik as soon as it learned of his new affiliation with Paul Manafort and Viktor Yanukovich, which makes sense given the orientation of the IRI. But that still leaves the question of the ultimate intent of Manafort and Kilimnik’s work with Yanukovych: were they simply working like political mercenaries to help Yankovych get elected and that’s it? Or were they working to push Yanukovych’s party and Ukraine into a more pro-Western orientation?:

    Meduza

    Paul Manafort’s man on the inside Meduza profiles Konstantin Kilimnik, the right hand of Donald Trump’s former campaign head

    Ilya Zhegulev
    Moscow

    This text was translated from Russian by Aleksandr Gorbachev.

    13:02, 19 august 2016

    Journalists have widely reported on Paul Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and his role in the administration of Viktor Yanukovich, the country’s former president who was toppled and forced into exile after 2014 Euromaidan protests. Manafort, until very recently the campaign chairman for Donald Trump, helped to resuscitate Yanukovich’s political image and eventually lead him to win the presidential election in 2010. He also allegedly received cash payments from the Yanukovich administration (Manafort’s lawyer denies this) and routed the money to lobbying firms in Washington in order to influence the US government’s policies regarding Ukraine. On August 19, Trump’s team announced that Manafort has resigned from the campaign. Until now almost nothing has been said about the local team that helped Manafort in his work in Ukraine. The top man on this team appears to be Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian national who initially suggested inviting Manafort to Ukraine and who remained by his side throughout the years that Manafort worked in the country.

    **********

    Kilimnik’s name has barely surfaced in either the Western or Russian media. No picture of him seems to exist, and apparently he has never given an interview. Kilimnik’s name appears in the documents of Pericles Emerging Markets, a private equity fund Manafort started that is now the subject of legal dispute between Manafort and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who invested in Pericles.

    With the help of several sources, however, Meduza has managed to build a profile of the man who served as Manafort’s top aide and helped him broker political deals in Ukraine and other countries. Most of the sources for this story declined to reveal their names publicly. (It is not uncommon for people in politics in Russia to insist on anonymity when speaking to journalists, even when there are no apparent risks involved.)

    Konstantin Kilimnik was born in Kirovograd, a regional capital in central Ukraine (the city is now called Kropyvnytskyi). Like many Soviet teenagers, he left his hometown to get a higher education in Moscow. He then landed a job at the Military University for Foreign Languages (known today as the Military University of the Ministry of Defense), teaching Swedish language and literature. However, when the Soviet Union fell apart and the economy tanked, Klimnik started looking for new job opportunities, and he eventually ended up at the Russian office of the International Republican Institute.

    Established in 1983, the IRI officially states that its core mission is “to encourage democracy in places where it is absent.” Throughout its history, however, the organization (which US Senator John McCain has chaired for the past 23 years) has attracted enormous controversy. In 2004, for instance, IRI was linked to a coup in Haiti. It also provided “campaign and communications training” to activists in Poland, and reportedly helped organize and finance anti-government groups in Arab countries ahead of the “Arab Spring.”

    According to those who know him, Kilimnik is a short, inconspicuous man, who did well at IRI, eventually becoming the deputy director of the Russian office. A former IRI executive says Kilimnik sometimes disagreed with his American supervisors. In 2004, for example, IRI decided to support Nikita Belykh, a young liberal politician who was then serving as deputy governor in Russia’s Perm region. Kilimnik thought this was a mistake. He considered Belykh to be weak and unpopular. (A year later, Belykh became the leader of the Union of Right Forces, one of Russia’s top liberal opposition parties at the time. The party performed well in regional elections, but flopped in the national election and didn’t make it into the State Duma. Belykh eventually resigned and later became the governor of Kirov. In June 2016, he was arrested in Moscow, allegedly for accepting bribes, and he’s now in jail awaiting trial.)

    After a long absence, Kilimnik first returned home to Ukraine in 2004, during the so-called “Orange Revolution.” It is now widely believed in Russia that the West (and particularly the United States) financed the protests in Kiev that eventually resulted in the annulation of a run-off vote in Ukraine’s presidential election (and in Yanukovich’s loss).

    According to a report by Russian Forbes, however, it wasn’t the Americans so much as the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky who was responsible for bankrolling the Orange Revolution. (Berezovsky reportedly invested $70 million in the cause.) Traveling to Ukraine as an IRI employee, Kilimnik was charged with inflating perceptions of Western participation, aiming to bolster US soft power by encouraging illusions about US support. According to a source close to Kilimnik, he was heavily involved in the campaign of Viktor Yushchenko—Yanukovich’s opponent—he invested enormous efforts in building Yushchenko’s alliance with Yulia Tymoshenko, another opposition leader.

    According to the source, it was around this time that Yanukovich’s people first reached out to Kilimnik. At some point, it became clear to “the other side” that their candidate wouldn’t be able to win Ukraine’s presidential race without some help from Western institutions. After the Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered a revote, Kilimnik was contacted by the people with ties to Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine and the biggest donor to the Yanukovich campaign. Akhmetov wanted to hire an American political consultant to help his candidate win in the revote, and Kilimnik came up with Paul Manafort’s name. (Presumably, the two had already been acquainted through IRI.)

    A source close to Akmetov recalls that he and Manafort held several meetings that lasted for many hours. The American consultant wanted to “feel out” his new clients and understand their values. Manafort firmly declined to help Yanukovich in the revote; he thought there was no chance to change the course of the election in two weeks’ time. Manafort didn’t think this defeat meant the end of Yanukovich’s political career, however, and he offered to help win a future election. The parties agreed, and Kilimnik became Manafort’s top aide in Ukraine, where Kilimnik was named the local representation for Davis Manafort company—a consulting and lobbying firm established by Manafort and his colleague Richard Davis in 1995.

    According to a former senior official at IRI, the institute fired Kilimnik as soon as it learned of his new affiliation with Paul Manafort and Viktor Yanukovich. The same source says all Manafort’s Russian connections were managed through Oleg Deripaska and his office.

    Kilimnik mostly helped Manafort with political analysis in Ukraine. According to Eugeny Kopatko, an analyst who worked with Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, Kilimnik was Manafort’s closest ally, responsible for “all the organizational stuff.” Kopatko called Kilimnik a smart and sociable man with strong opinions and good sense of humor who is capable of “getting the job done,” but Kopatko refused to go into details. “In this profession, a lot of things best remain behind the scenes,” he said.

    Manafort and Kilimnik were successful: in less than two years, they were able to reform the structure of the Party of Regions, which eventually won Ukraine’s parliamentary elections in 2006 with 32 percent of the votes. As a result, Yanukovich became the prime minister and was able to rebuild his political image. According to a source close to Kilimnik, when it came to the next presidential election in 2010, the Kremlin wasn’t willing to help Yanukovich anymore. All the work was done by Manafort and his team. Again, they were successful, and Yanukovich, who was considered all but a political corpse six years earlier, became the new president of Ukraine in February 2010.

    Meanwhile, according to a source close to Kilimnik, Manafort tried to work with several Russian pro-government politicians, too. However, that didn’t work out as well: while the Russians paid for his advice, they largely ignored it, and he never managed to establish any working relationships.

    Abbas Gallyamov, who in the late 2000s worked in the administration of Vladimir Putin (then serving as Dmitry Medvedev’s prime minister), doesn’t believe the stories about Manafort working with pro-Kremlin politicians. “Considering the level of anti-Americanism in Russia, it would have been too risky, despite Manafort’s work with Yanukovich,” he said.

    Another source close to Kilimnik also alleges that Manafort and his aides worked all across the former Soviet Union. In fact, Kilimnik proved so capable in organizing the ground work that Manafort dispatched him to supervise and consult clients in places as far as Europe and Africa.

    After Yanukovich became president, his relationship with Manafort started to erode, according to a source close to Kilimnik. Now other people had Yanukovich’s ear, and despite the fact that Manafort organized another successful campaign for the Party of Regions, the president didn’t pay as much attention to his American advisor as before. For example, according to the source, Manafort and Kilimnik firmly opposed the criminal persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, but Yanukovich went ahead with it, anyway.

    After Yanukovich was ousted, Rinat Akhmetov asked Manafort to help resurrect the Party of Regions, which was in ruins after the Euromaidan Revolution. According to Vadim Novinsky, Akhmetov’s partner, Manafort managed another political miracle: the party, now renamed the Opposition Bloc, won 10 percent of the vote in the next parliamentary election. Manafort himself denies any involvement in Ukrainian politics since 2014.

    As it is widely known, Paul Manafort was one of the key people in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign after March 2016. Konstantin Kilimnik stayed in Ukraine, where he still works as the local representative for the Davis Manafort firm. While rumors persist that Kilimnik has ties to the Russian government and its security agencies, and he sometimes conducts business meetings at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, none of Meduza’s sources confirmed Kilimnik’s supposed connections to the Kremlin.

    ———-

    “Paul Manafort’s man on the inside Meduza profiles Konstantin Kilimnik, the right hand of Donald Trump’s former campaign head” by Ilya Zhegulev; Meduza; 09/19/2016

    Konstantin Kilimnik was born in Kirovograd, a regional capital in central Ukraine (the city is now called Kropyvnytskyi). Like many Soviet teenagers, he left his hometown to get a higher education in Moscow. He then landed a job at the Military University for Foreign Languages (known today as the Military University of the Ministry of Defense), teaching Swedish language and literature. However, when the Soviet Union fell apart and the economy tanked, Klimnik started looking for new job opportunities, and he eventually ended up at the Russian office of the International Republican Institute.

    So Kilimnik was born in Ukraine and moved to Moscow to study languages at the Military University for Foreign Languages. That’s the source of his GRU ties.

    But then the Soviet Union collapses and he ends up working for the DC-based International Republican Institute, known for promoting regime change operations:


    Established in 1983, the IRI officially states that its core mission is “to encourage democracy in places where it is absent.” Throughout its history, however, the organization (which US Senator John McCain has chaired for the past 23 years) has attracted enormous controversy. In 2004, for instance, IRI was linked to a coup in Haiti. It also provided “campaign and communications training” to activists in Poland, and reportedly helped organize and finance anti-government groups in Arab countries ahead of the “Arab Spring.”

    It’s quite a biography, with Kilimnik returning home to Ukraine in 2004 to help Viktor Yushchenko’s campaign and promote an alliance between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko (an alliance implicitly against Yanukovych and the Party of Regions):


    After a long absence, Kilimnik first returned home to Ukraine in 2004, during the so-called “Orange Revolution.” It is now widely believed in Russia that the West (and particularly the United States) financed the protests in Kiev that eventually resulted in the annulation of a run-off vote in Ukraine’s presidential election (and in Yanukovich’s loss).

    According to a report by Russian Forbes, however, it wasn’t the Americans so much as the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky who was responsible for bankrolling the Orange Revolution. (Berezovsky reportedly invested $70 million in the cause.) Traveling to Ukraine as an IRI employee, Kilimnik was charged with inflating perceptions of Western participation, aiming to bolster US soft power by encouraging illusions about US support. According to a source close to Kilimnik, he was heavily involved in the campaign of Viktor Yushchenko—Yanukovich’s opponent—he invested enormous efforts in building Yushchenko’s alliance with Yulia Tymoshenko, another opposition leader.

    And it was during this returns to Ukraine to work for Viktor Yushchenko that he first gets approached by people close to Rinat Akhmetov, Yanukovych’s biggest donor. Akhmetov wants help with the revote and Kilimnik puts him in contact with Manafort. Manafort refuses to help with the revote but agrees to help with Yanukovych’s political future. Then the IRI finds out about this and fires Kilimnik. It’s a pretty remarkable story, in part because it sure sounds like Yanukovych basically looking for a politically connected American who they can negotiate/plead with. In other words, this sounds like Yanukovych’s allies wanted to negotiate with the US and/or make themselves seem more appealing to the West and asked Kilimnik to put them in contact with an appropriate middle-man who turned out to be Paul Manafort. We don’t know that’s the case, but given the circumstances – and the later “Hapsburg Group” push by Yanukovych to get Ukraine into an EU trade pact – that looks like one of the more plausible scenarios:


    According to the source, it was around this time that Yanukovich’s people first reached out to Kilimnik. At some point, it became clear to “the other side” that their candidate wouldn’t be able to win Ukraine’s presidential race without some help from Western institutions. After the Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered a revote, Kilimnik was contacted by the people with ties to Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine and the biggest donor to the Yanukovich campaign. Akhmetov wanted to hire an American political consultant to help his candidate win in the revote, and Kilimnik came up with Paul Manafort’s name. (Presumably, the two had already been acquainted through IRI.)

    A source close to Akmetov recalls that he and Manafort held several meetings that lasted for many hours. The American consultant wanted to “feel out” his new clients and understand their values. Manafort firmly declined to help Yanukovich in the revote; he thought there was no chance to change the course of the election in two weeks’ time. Manafort didn’t think this defeat meant the end of Yanukovich’s political career, however, and he offered to help win a future election. The parties agreed, and Kilimnik became Manafort’s top aide in Ukraine, where Kilimnik was named the local representation for Davis Manafort company—a consulting and lobbying firm established by Manafort and his colleague Richard Davis in 1995.

    According to a former senior official at IRI, the institute fired Kilimnik as soon as it learned of his new affiliation with Paul Manafort and Viktor Yanukovich. The same source says all Manafort’s Russian connections were managed through Oleg Deripaska and his office.

    After the “Orange Revolution” protests that stop the revote and puts Yushchenko into power, Manafort and Kilimnik then proceed to work with the Party of Regions. And they are apparently so successful that the party comes in first place in the 2006 parliamentary elections, allowing Yanukovych to become prime minister. Intriguingly, sources claim that Moscow actually backed away from its support of Yanukovych by the time of the next presidential elections in 2010 but Manafort’s political skills alone allowed Yanukovych to win that election and become president. This apparent lack a support from Moscow is worth keeping in mind given what appeared to be a serious effort by Yanukovych’s government to join the EU trade union in the following years and the remarkable 2004 outreach effort to Kilimnik:


    Kilimnik mostly helped Manafort with political analysis in Ukraine. According to Eugeny Kopatko, an analyst who worked with Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, Kilimnik was Manafort’s closest ally, responsible for “all the organizational stuff.” Kopatko called Kilimnik a smart and sociable man with strong opinions and good sense of humor who is capable of “getting the job done,” but Kopatko refused to go into details. “In this profession, a lot of things best remain behind the scenes,” he said.

    Manafort and Kilimnik were successful: in less than two years, they were able to reform the structure of the Party of Regions, which eventually won Ukraine’s parliamentary elections in 2006 with 32 percent of the votes. As a result, Yanukovich became the prime minister and was able to rebuild his political image. According to a source close to Kilimnik, when it came to the next presidential election in 2010, the Kremlin wasn’t willing to help Yanukovich anymore. All the work was done by Manafort and his team. Again, they were successful, and Yanukovich, who was considered all but a political corpse six years earlier, became the new president of Ukraine in February 2010.

    At the same time, it sounds like Manafort was also trying to offer his political consulting services to several Russian politicians too during this period. But that didn’t actually work out very well and he never established any working relationship. That’s according to one source, although this is contested. Given the stunning success he had with the makeover of the Party of Regions in short order you have to wonder why they wouldn’t have taken his advice if he offered it:


    Meanwhile, according to a source close to Kilimnik, Manafort tried to work with several Russian pro-government politicians, too. However, that didn’t work out as well: while the Russians paid for his advice, they largely ignored it, and he never managed to establish any working relationships.

    Abbas Gallyamov, who in the late 2000s worked in the administration of Vladimir Putin (then serving as Dmitry Medvedev’s prime minister), doesn’t believe the stories about Manafort working with pro-Kremlin politicians. “Considering the level of anti-Americanism in Russia, it would have been too risky, despite Manafort’s work with Yanukovich,” he said.

    Another source close to Kilimnik also alleges that Manafort and his aides worked all across the former Soviet Union. In fact, Kilimnik proved so capable in organizing the ground work that Manafort dispatched him to supervise and consult clients in places as far as Europe and Africa.

    Also note the claims by one source that Manafort’s relations with Yanukovych actually suffered following Yanukovch’s 2010 victory. It’s something to keep in mind regarding the possiblity that Manafort had a role in the sniper attacks that precipitating the downfall of Yanukovych following the fail of the EU trade union negotiations. And note one of the areas of disagreement between Yanukovych and Manafort/Kilimnik: the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko. Keep in mind that her jailing ended up being one of the key sticking points on the negotiations over Ukraine’s admission into a trade union with the EU:


    After Yanukovich became president, his relationship with Manafort started to erode, according to a source close to Kilimnik. Now other people had Yanukovich’s ear, and despite the fact that Manafort organized another successful campaign for the Party of Regions, the president didn’t pay as much attention to his American advisor as before. For example, according to the source, Manafort and Kilimnik firmly opposed the criminal persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, but Yanukovich went ahead with it, anyway.

    Then, after Yanukovych is ousted in the Maidan protests in 2014, Manafort gets hired by Rinat Akhmetov to remake the Party of Regions into the Opposition Bloc:


    After Yanukovich was ousted, Rinat Akhmetov asked Manafort to help resurrect the Party of Regions, which was in ruins after the Euromaidan Revolution. According to Vadim Novinsky, Akhmetov’s partner, Manafort managed another political miracle: the party, now renamed the Opposition Bloc, won 10 percent of the vote in the next parliamentary election. Manafort himself denies any involvement in Ukrainian politics since 2014.

    So while it’s hard to put too much weight in anonymous sources (but don’t forget Meduza is an anti-Putin publication), the profile of Kilimnik still gives us a better idea of the nature of the work of both Kilimnik’s and Manafort’s work for Yanukovych and the Party of Regions:

    1. Kilmnik is born in Ukraine, heads to Moscow as a teenager to finish his higher education.

    2. He gets trained in languages at a Russian university with intelligence ties.
    3. Then the Soviet Union falls and Kilimnik finds a job with the International Republican Institute, which is about as non-Kremlin-ish a job as one can imagine.

    4. Kilimnik returns to Ukraine in 2004 to help the IRI promote Viktor Yushchenko’s Western-backed presidential campaign, as well as promote and alliance between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko (two key backers of the “Orange Revolution”).

    5. After Ukraine’s Supreme Court orders a revote, Yanukovych’s top donor (and the wealthiest man in Ukraine) Rinat Akhmetov approachs Kilimnik to get in contact with an American political consultant to help them win the revote. Kilimnik is at this point working for their opponent. He puts them in touch with Manafort.

    6. Manafort refuses to help with the revote, but agrees to help Yanukovych after the election (did a quiet ‘deal’ with the West get made?).

    7. Kilimnik gets fired by the IRI after they discover his work with Manafort and Yanukovych.

    8. Manafort and Kilimnik lead the Party of Regions to victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

    9. Moscow allegedly backs away its support of Yanukovych, but Manafort and Kilimnik lead them him to victory in 2010 and he becomes president.

    And it’s after Yanukovych becomes president that we see the big drive to get Ukraine into a trade union with the EU. A drive Yanukovych dramatically complicated with the jailing of Tymoshenko. Hence the focus of the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying effort on convincing the US and EU governments that Tymoshenko’s release shouldn’t be required for the trade union to happen. But by late 2013, when the EU’s offer to Ukraine to go ahead with the trade union turns out to be so miniscule that it would pose a major risk if Ukraine actually joined, Yanukovych switches course and moves to join Russia’s rival Eurasian Union instead, leading to the Maidan protests.

    So when we incorporate Konstantin Kilimnik into the story of Paul Manafort and his relations with the Ukrainian government, that story only gets more and more convoluted. Kilimnik and Manafort helped Yanukovych and the Party of Regions win elections while pushing them to move Ukraine closer to the West. And after that push to get Ukraine into the trade union finally fails in 2013 (in no small part due to the EU’s horribly austere offer to Ukraine) we have Yanukovych driven out of office following the public outrage caused by the sniper attacks on the Maidan protests. Sniper attacks that may have been orchestrated by Paul Manafort, according to the hacked text messages of Manafort’s daughter.

    And note how none of the sources for this article, who appeared to be close to Kilimnik, could confirm Kilimnik’s alleged deep connections to the Kremlin:


    As it is widely known, Paul Manafort was one of the key people in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign after March 2016. Konstantin Kilimnik stayed in Ukraine, where he still works as the local representative for the Davis Manafort firm. While rumors persist that Kilimnik has ties to the Russian government and its security agencies, and he sometimes conducts business meetings at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, none of Meduza’s sources confirmed Kilimnik’s supposed connections to the Kremlin.

    Along those lines, it’s worth noting that Rinat Akhmetov – Yanukovych’s biggest donor and the wealthiest person in Ukraine and the guy who basically hired Manafort and Kilimnik in 2004 – has a unique role in Ukraine after the outbreak of war and is know for maintaining good working relations with Moscow and Kiev. His business empire is based in the separatist-controlled Donbass region but he’s still has a massive business presence in the rest of Ukraine. Akhmetov continued to operate his businesses in the rebel held areas and keep people there employed by exporting products like coal until the separatists seized his assets last year. In early March of 2017, separatists seized his assets in protest over Akhmetov paying taxes to Kiev instead of locally for his assets in the separatist-held regions and in response to a government blockade of all trade with the separatist-held regions imposed a month earlier. Then in mid-March, Kiev formalized the blockade and officially cut off all trade and humanitarian aid to the separatists, largely to please Ukrainian nationalist demands. So the wealthiest person in Ukraine has major assets held by the separatists, and he’s consistently called for a reintegration of the separatist regions into Ukraine, making Akhmetov a default person to help broker a peace deal, especially since he’s expressed an interest in leading the Donbass as governor as part of a reintegration process.

    So when we’re assessing Manafort’s and Kilimnik’s work for Yanukovych, it’s important to keep in mind that they were hired by a Ukrainian oligarch who certainly maintains friendly ties with Moscow but doesn’t appear to be someone simply taking their directions from Moscow. And that’s similar to Yanukovych, who appeared to be serious about getting Ukraine into the EU trade union (hence the “Hapsburg Group” diplomacy) until the talks broke down in response to the EU’s relatively tiny aid package offer in the face of what would be a massively expensive upgrade to Ukraine’s economy in order to get the country up to EU standards. In other words, the typical assessment that everyone in Ukraine who was associated with the ‘pro-Russian’ Party of Regions takes their orders from the Kremlin doesn’t appear to reflect reality and obscures some key context for understanding the work Manafort was doing at this time. These ‘pro-Russian’ politicians are still Ukrainian and forced to straddle that divide.

    Ok, now let’s take a look a the WSJ’s version of how Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik ended up working for for Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. The key difference between the WSJ version and the Meduza profile is the role played by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. According to the WSJ version of events, it was Deripaska who first got in touch with Manafort’s consulting firm in early 2004 seeking advice related to Georgia, which had just undergone its own “Rose Revolution” in 2003. It was Deripaska who put Manafort in contact with Rinat Akhmetov later that year. That contrasts with the Meduza profile barely mentions Deripaska and describes a scenario where Akhmetov approaches Kilimnik and then puts Akhmetov in touch with Manafort, so it’s a pretty significant difference.

    According to the WSJ, it was in early 2004 when one of Deripaska’s investing partners, Nathanial Rothschild, invited Manafort’s partner, Rick Davis, to the Moscow office of Deripaska’s holding company. The purpose of the meeting was to meet with Igor Giorgadze, a former Georgian Minister of State Security who was exiled from Georgia following charges by the Georgian government that Giorgadze orchestrated a 1995 assassination attempt on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Giorgadze was living in Moscow and trying to start a new political party there and Deripaska wanted to hire Manafort’s firm for advice on how to allow for the return of Giorgadze to influence Georgia. Rothschild and Davis apparently dined with Georgia’s new president, Mikheil Saakashvili, in late 2004 to lobby for Giargadze’s return but he scuttled their plans.

    The article also notes that of the employees of Manafort’s firm, Philip Griffin, who worked on the Georgia project was also a former IRI employee in the Moscow office (according to Mark Ames, Griffin was the former head of IRI’s Moscow office).

    It was in November of 2004, when the “Orange Revolution” protests started, that Manafort’s firm turned its attention to Ukraine. And this was done on behalf of Deripaska. Griffin recalls flying home from the Georgian capital when he got a call for Rick Davis that rerouted him to Ukraine for an “intelligence gathering” project. Manafort and Griffin then spent the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas “huddled in Washington, where they met with political contacts and gauged the U.S. attitude toward events in Ukraine.”

    Recall how in the Meduza profile the stated initial purpose of the Ukrainian work for Manafort’s firm was to seek assistance with the planned revote following the Orange Revolution protests. And in this WSJ profile, the initial purpose of the Ukrainian work for Manafort’s firm to assess US government attitudes regarding the Orange Revolution. So both accounts sound pretty similar, although the Meduza profile characterizes the people who hired Manafort’s firm as ‘allies of Yanukovych’ and doesn’t mention Deripaska being the person who initially hired Manafort’s firm to do this kind of work.

    It was in late December of 2004 when Deripaska dispatched Manafort to Donetsk to meet Rinat Akhmetov. According to Griffin, “We told them about the mood in Washington,” regarding the Orange Revolution and that that the U.S. wasn’t going to do anything to counter it. That’s also largely consistent with the Meduza profile in terms of what Akhmetov was initially interestested in.

    Akhmetov then wanted Manafort to “Westernize the image of his holding company, System Capital Management,” and provide strategy and branding assistance to help SCM survive in Kiev’s new political atmosphere. In other words, Akhmetov, the financier of the Party of Regions, wanted Manafort to help him become more palatable to the West.

    In the summer of 2005, Manafort and Griffen go on to meet with a number of Party of Regions at the Baltschug Kempinski Hotel, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin to meet with with Akhmetov, Yanukovych and influential Ukrainian businessmen and officials from the Party of Regions. Akhmetov pitches the project of providing consulting services for the Party of Regions. Manafort goes on to hire more than 40 consultants for the project, many from Washington. Deripaska wasn’t involved with this project according to Griffin. It was Akhmetov’s idea.

    Manafort then traveled to the US embassy in Kiev to inform thenthen-ambassador John Herbst of his work for Yanukovych. “He said this would be consistent with American interests,” said Mr. Herbst.

    Later in 2005, Deripaska went on to hire Manafort’s firm to do some work in Montenegro. The state was in the midst of an independence push Serbia and Deripaska was a major investor in the country. Montenegro went on to gain independence.

    Finally, the article mentions a 2007 project between Deripaska and Manafort’s firm that eventually led to a falling out between the two. In 2007, Deripaska pledged $19 million for Pericles Emerging Market Partners, a Cayman Islands-registered private-equity fund run by Davis and Manafort. The money was to be invested in a Ukrainian telecommunications company. Mr. Deripaska also paid the partners a $7.3 million management fee. Deripaska later concluded that he was swindled out of ~$1 million by Manafort and Davis, leading to falling out. It’s assumed that this ongoing dispute and debt to Deripaska is the basis for Manafort’s pledge during the 2016 campaign to give private briefings to Deripaska and “get whole”. Also note that this dispute between Manafort and Deripaska implies that Manafort’s ties to the Kremlin were probably frayed quite a bit in recent years.

    So was we can see, the Meduza and WSJ profiles do overlap quite a bit, but with the notable exception of the role Oleg Deripaska. In both cases is sounds like the initial interest in Manafort’s services had to do with seeking Western help for Yanukovych in the midst of the 2004 Orange Revolution. In the Meduza profile, Deripaska is a minor figure in how Manafort and Kilimnik ended up working for Yanukovych. But in the WSJ profile Deripaska played a central role and started his relationship with Manafort in early 2004 for a project involving Georgia:

    The Wall Street Journal

    Paul Manafort’s Overseas Political Work Had a Notable Patron: A Russian Oligarch
    Efforts by the former Trump campaign chairman to advance interests in Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro were often connected to Oleg Deripaska

    By Brett Forrest
    Aug. 30, 2017 6:25 p.m. ET

    Paul Manafort’s political-consulting firm was active for more than a decade doing work that often dovetailed with Russian political interests not only in Ukraine, but also in Georgia and Montenegro, other countries the Kremlin considered to be in its sphere of influence.

    A Wall Street Journal examination shows these efforts were broader in scope and ambition, and took place for longer, than previously reported—starting in 2004 and continuing through 2015.

    They often involved one principal figure, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a politically connected international operator whose ventures have sometimes aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign-policy objectives. “I don’t separate myself from the state,” he told the Financial Times in 2007. “I have no other interests.”

    Though Mr. Manafort and Mr. Deripaska eventually had a falling out over money, culminating in a 2014 legal petition in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Manafort continued to work in Ukraine for years. Earlier this year, Mr. Manafort reported in a government filing that his firm earned more than $17 million for work for pro-Russian parties in Ukraine from 2012 to 2014. His failure to disclose the full extent of his work in Ukraine led to his departure as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman in August 2016.

    Mr. Manafort built a career providing political expertise to international strongmen such as Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi through several firms over the years. Much of his work with Russia-friendly interests was through Davis Manafort Partners, or DMP, the political-consulting firm he ran with partner Rick Davis.

    Dispensing American political wisdom abroad isn’t illegal. Rather, Mr. Manafort, working with Mr. Deripaska, sometimes appeared to engage in foreign work that some—including some former U.S. ambassadors in the region—saw as potentially at odds with stated U.S. positions at the time. The two men’s personal relationship dates back to 2004 and continued at least through 2007, although Mr. Manafort and his firm continued to advise parties friendly to Mr. Deripaska through 2015.

    The Georgia project

    In one early project, which wasn’t previously publicly known, Mr. Manafort’s firm worked with Mr. Deripaska to try returning an exiled pro-Russian politician to Georgia, which had elected a Western-leaning president in 2004 after the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003.

    In early 2004, one of Mr. Deripaska’s investing partners, Nathaniel Rothschild, a scion of the U.K. business family, invited Mr. Davis, Mr. Manafort’s partner, to the Moscow office of the oligarch’s holding company, Basic Element, said a political consultant familiar with DMP. There, they met Igor Giorgadze, a former Georgian Minister of State Security, the consultant said—the meeting’s objective: Help devise a plan to return Mr. Giorgadze to influence in Georgia..

    Mr. Deripaska hired DMP to shepherd the Georgia plan, said the consultant.

    Georgian authorities had accused Mr. Giorgadze of orchestrating a 1995 assassination attempt on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. From self-imposed exile in Moscow, Mr. Giorgadze had established a Russian-backed political party.

    After the Rose Revolution, the new president tilted Georgia away from the Kremlin. President George W. Bush backed his approach.

    Mr. Deripaska was countering with a Russia-friendly strategy, the political consultant said. Mr. Rothschild would invest in Georgia—first in vineyards—then petition the government to let Mr. Giorgadze safely return.

    “Giorgadze would have been a loyal, trustworthy subaltern” to Russia, said Kenneth Yalowitz, U.S. ambassador to Georgia from 1998 to 2001, now director of Georgetown University’s conflict-resolution program, “who would not have gone Westward.”

    Mr. Rothschild couldn’t be reached for comment. Mr. Davis didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did Mr. Giorgadze’s lawyer, Gagi Mosiashvili.

    In late 2004, Mr. Rothschild and Mr. Davis dined in the capital, Tbilisi, with Georgia’s new president, Mikheil Saakashvili, but he scuttled their plans, the consultant said—effectively shelving the project.

    Mr. Maloni said DMP was involved in the Georgia project but Mr. Manafort played no personal role; he didn’t address whether Mr. Deripaska was involved in the project. Mr. Saakashvili declined to comment.

    Orange Revolution

    DMP’s attention shifted to Ukraine, where the firm again dealt with Mr. Deripaska—this time to gather intelligence for a businessman and political party friendly with Russia, said the political consultant.

    On Nov. 21, 2004, Ukraine’s Russia-aligned prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, won a presidential election against Viktor Yushchenko, who favored European integration. The defeated parliamentarian’s supporters, along with the U.S. and EU, deemed the election fraudulent, instigating an uprising dubbed the Orange Revolution.

    A consultant working with DMP in Georgia, Philip Griffin, said he was traveling home from Tbilisi when Mr. Davis called, rerouting him to Ukraine to help Mr. Deripaska and Mr. Rothschild. Mr. Griffin, who had previously worked in the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute, a U.S. Congress-funded pro-democracy group, said: “The mission to me this time was clear: intelligence gathering.”

    Mr. Manafort led this project. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2004, he and Mr. Griffin huddled in Washington, where they met with political contacts and gauged the U.S. attitude toward events in Ukraine, said Mr. Griffin.

    In late December, Mr. Griffin said, Mr. Deripaska dispatched Mr. Manafort to Donetsk, an eastern-Ukraine city with strong business and cultural ties to Moscow. There, Mr. Deripaska arranged for Mr. Manafort to meet Rinat Akhmetov, a coal and steel magnate. Mr. Akhmetov maintained close relations with the Kremlin, said a Ukrainian former anti-organized-crime chief.

    “We told them about the mood in Washington,” that the U.S. wasn’t going to do anything to counter the Orange Revolution, said Mr. Griffin, now a freelance political consultant. “We told them this train is not going to be stopped.”

    Mr. Yushchenko, the candidate who favored close European ties, won a new presidential election in January 2005.

    Mr. Akhmetov intensified a campaign to Westernize the image of his holding company, System Capital Management, and hired DMP to provide strategy and branding assistance to help SCM survive in Kiev’s new political atmosphere, Mr. Griffin said.

    Mr. Manafort went on to deal with Mr. Akhmetov on another project, this time for a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine. Mr. Deripaska wasn’t involved, said the consultant.

    In summer 2005, in advance of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections the following year, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Griffin traveled to the Baltschug Kempinski Hotel, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, said the consultant. There, they met with Mr. Akhmetov, Mr. Yanukovych and influential Ukrainian businessmen and officials from Mr. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

    Mr. Akhmetov wanted Mr. Manafort’s political-consulting services for the group, Mr. Griffin said. For the project, Mr. Manafort hired more than 40 consultants, many from Washington, he said. DMP furnished a variety of services: polling Ukrainian voters to identify critical economic and social issues, providing guidance on advertising and helping formulate an overall strategy for the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

    The Party of Regions won 32.1% of the 2006 vote, and Mr. Yanukovych was reappointed prime minister. The Western-friendly Orange Revolution was effectively undone.

    Mr. Manafort visited the U.S. embassy in Kiev to inform then-ambassador John Herbst of Mr. Manafort’s duties for Mr. Yanukovych. “He said this would be consistent with American interests,” said Mr. Herbst, now director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington international-affairs think tank. Mr. Maloni confirms the meeting.

    Mr. Yanukovych leaned on Mr. Manafort to manage his public profile and generate talking points, Mr. Griffin said. In concert with other strategists, Mr. Manafort also advised the Yanukovych campaign to stoke issues that excited his base in the Russia-friendly Ukrainian east, Mr. Griffin said, in line with Moscow’s policy. That included opposition to a proposed declaration of Ukrainian as the national language and disapproval of Mr. Yushchenko’s dalliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    As Washington’s relations soured with Moscow, some American officials grew concerned about Mr. Manafort’s support for a candidate in Ukraine who appeared to be working counter to U.S. interests. “We didn’t see it as helpful,” said William Taylor, then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now executive vice president of the United States Institute of Peace, a federal body devoted the reduction of violent conflict.

    Mr. Manafort adjusted his approach, selling Mr. Yanukovych as a Western-friendly candidate, said a former U.S. government official. “He was trying to polish an unpolishable stone.”

    Mr. Maloni said: “For years Ukraine was caught in a proxy war between the West and Russia. Mr. Manafort’s work for the Party of Regions aimed to bridge this divide, bring Ukraine closer to the West, and provide greater economic stability and security.”

    Mr. Deripaska went on in 2005 to hire DMP to work in Montenegro, which was progressing toward independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Mr. Deripaska was completing his acquisition of a smelter and bauxite mine there.

    When the independence referendum passed by a slim margin in May 2006, Russia quickly recognized Montenegrin sovereignty. Mr. Deripaska ultimately left Montenegro when pro-EU forces gained the upper hand politically and the state cut subsidies to his business there, crippling it, said Mr. Polt, the former ambassador.

    In 2007, Mr. Deripaska pledged $19 million for Messrs. Davis and Manafort’s Cayman Islands-registered private-equity fund, Pericles Emerging Market Partners, to invest in a Ukrainian telecommunications company. Mr. Deripaska also paid the partners a $7.3 million management fee.

    Those details are part of a petition Mr. Deripaska filed in 2014 in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands against Pericles for the recovery of funds. Mr. Maloni didn’t respond to requests for comment on the petition. The Ogier law firm, which represents Mr. Deripaska in the Caymans, declined to comment, as did the court.

    ———-

    “Paul Manafort’s Overseas Political Work Had a Notable Patron: A Russian Oligarch” by Brett Forrest; The Wall Street Journal; 08/30/2017

    “Paul Manafort’s political-consulting firm was active for more than a decade doing work that often dovetailed with Russian political interests not only in Ukraine, but also in Georgia and Montenegro, other countries the Kremlin considered to be in its sphere of influence.”

    As we can see, Oleg Deripaska played a critical role in Paul Manafort rise as a go-to political consultant for the former Soviety Union, with jobs for Deripaska in Georgia and Montenegro in addition to Ukraine. And it’s that relationship with Deripaska that led to Manafort’s work with Konstantin Kilimnik.

    At the same time, Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska is only described as continuing through at least 2007. That’s because it was 2007 when Deripaska made his ill-fated investment in Manafort’s private equity fund that Deripaska asserts resulted in him being defrauded by Manafort and Davis:


    They often involved one principal figure, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a politically connected international operator whose ventures have sometimes aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign-policy objectives. “I don’t separate myself from the state,” he told the Financial Times in 2007. “I have no other interests.”

    Dispensing American political wisdom abroad isn’t illegal. Rather, Mr. Manafort, working with Mr. Deripaska, sometimes appeared to engage in foreign work that some—including some former U.S. ambassadors in the region—saw as potentially at odds with stated U.S. positions at the time. The two men’s personal relationship dates back to 2004 and continued at least through 2007, although Mr. Manafort and his firm continued to advise parties friendly to Mr. Deripaska through 2015.

    In 2007, Mr. Deripaska pledged $19 million for Messrs. Davis and Manafort’s Cayman Islands-registered private-equity fund, Pericles Emerging Market Partners, to invest in a Ukrainian telecommunications company. Mr. Deripaska also paid the partners a $7.3 million management fee.

    Those details are part of a petition Mr. Deripaska filed in 2014 in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands against Pericles for the recovery of funds. Mr. Maloni didn’t respond to requests for comment on the petition. The Ogier law firm, which represents Mr. Deripaska in the Caymans, declined to comment, as did the court.

    And this relationship with Manafort appears to have begun in early 2004, when Deripaska hired Manafort and Rick Davis to formulate a strategy for returning Igor Giorgadze to Georgia:


    The Georgia project

    In one early project, which wasn’t previously publicly known, Mr. Manafort’s firm worked with Mr. Deripaska to try returning an exiled pro-Russian politician to Georgia, which had elected a Western-leaning president in 2004 after the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003.

    In early 2004, one of Mr. Deripaska’s investing partners, Nathaniel Rothschild, a scion of the U.K. business family, invited Mr. Davis, Mr. Manafort’s partner, to the Moscow office of the oligarch’s holding company, Basic Element, said a political consultant familiar with DMP. There, they met Igor Giorgadze, a former Georgian Minister of State Security, the consultant said—the meeting’s objective: Help devise a plan to return Mr. Giorgadze to influence in Georgia..

    In late 2004, Mr. Rothschild and Mr. Davis dined in the capital, Tbilisi, with Georgia’s new president, Mikheil Saakashvili, but he scuttled their plans, the consultant said—effectively shelving the project.

    The Georgia scheme didn’t pan out, but Deripaska had another political emergency erupted for Deripaska: Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. This appears to be where Manafort and Davis start their work in Ukraine:


    Orange Revolution

    DMP’s attention shifted to Ukraine, where the firm again dealt with Mr. Deripaska—this time to gather intelligence for a businessman and political party friendly with Russia, said the political consultant.

    On Nov. 21, 2004, Ukraine’s Russia-aligned prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, won a presidential election against Viktor Yushchenko, who favored European integration. The defeated parliamentarian’s supporters, along with the U.S. and EU, deemed the election fraudulent, instigating an uprising dubbed the Orange Revolution.

    And look which employee of Manafort’s firm first made the trip to Ukraine to gather intelligence: Philip Griffin, a former employee of IRI’s Moscow office (who actually headed the office):


    A consultant working with DMP in Georgia, Philip Griffin, said he was traveling home from Tbilisi when Mr. Davis called, rerouting him to Ukraine to help Mr. Deripaska and Mr. Rothschild. Mr. Griffin, who had previously worked in the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute, a U.S. Congress-funded pro-democracy group, said: “The mission to me this time was clear: intelligence gathering.”

    At the beginning of this project, before the revote in late December, it sounds like Manafort and Griffin actually spent their time in Washington trying to get a sense of how DC felt about the Orange Revolution protests. In other words, Deripaska hired Manafort to lobby DC. In late December, Deripaska has Manfort meet Rinat Akhmetov, the chief financier of the Party of Regions. It was concluded by Manafort that DC was committed to the Orange Revolution:


    Mr. Manafort led this project. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2004, he and Mr. Griffin huddled in Washington, where they met with political contacts and gauged the U.S. attitude toward events in Ukraine, said Mr. Griffin.

    In late December, Mr. Griffin said, Mr. Deripaska dispatched Mr. Manafort to Donetsk, an eastern-Ukraine city with strong business and cultural ties to Moscow. There, Mr. Deripaska arranged for Mr. Manafort to meet Rinat Akhmetov, a coal and steel magnate. Mr. Akhmetov maintained close relations with the Kremlin, said a Ukrainian former anti-organized-crime chief.

    “We told them about the mood in Washington,” that the U.S. wasn’t going to do anything to counter the Orange Revolution, said Mr. Griffin, now a freelance political consultant. “We told them this train is not going to be stopped.”

    So Akhmetov, apparently seeing the way the political winds are blowing, decides to hire Manafort to rebrand his holding company to deal with the new political realities:


    Mr. Akhmetov intensified a campaign to Westernize the image of his holding company, System Capital Management, and hired DMP to provide strategy and branding assistance to help SCM survive in Kiev’s new political atmosphere, Mr. Griffin said.

    Yanukovych goes on to lose the revote and in January of 2005 Viktor Yushchenko (backed by the IRI) goes on to become Ukraine’s president. So Akhmetov hires Manafort’s firm for a new project: rebranding Party of Regions. It was a wild success:


    Mr. Manafort went on to deal with Mr. Akhmetov on another project, this time for a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine. Mr. Deripaska wasn’t involved, said the consultant.

    In summer 2005, in advance of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections the following year, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Griffin traveled to the Baltschug Kempinski Hotel, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, said the consultant. There, they met with Mr. Akhmetov, Mr. Yanukovych and influential Ukrainian businessmen and officials from Mr. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

    Mr. Akhmetov wanted Mr. Manafort’s political-consulting services for the group, Mr. Griffin said. For the project, Mr. Manafort hired more than 40 consultants, many from Washington, he said. DMP furnished a variety of services: polling Ukrainian voters to identify critical economic and social issues, providing guidance on advertising and helping formulate an overall strategy for the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

    The Party of Regions won 32.1% of the 2006 vote, and Mr. Yanukovych was reappointed prime minister. The Western-friendly Orange Revolution was effectively undone.

    Interestingly, the US ambassador to Kiev at the time recalls Manafort informing him that his work for the Party of Regions “would be consistent with American interests”:


    Mr. Manafort visited the U.S. embassy in Kiev to inform then-ambassador John Herbst of Mr. Manafort’s duties for Mr. Yanukovych. “He said this would be consistent with American interests,” said Mr. Herbst, now director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington international-affairs think tank. Mr. Maloni confirms the meeting.

    And as we saw with the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying effort, he did appear to be pushing Yanukovych and the Party of Regions towards closer ties to the West.

    Finally, Deripaska hires Manafort for another project that year: Montenegro’s independence drive:


    Mr. Deripaska went on in 2005 to hire DMP to work in Montenegro, which was progressing toward independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Mr. Deripaska was completing his acquisition of a smelter and bauxite mine there.

    When the independence referendum passed by a slim margin in May 2006, Russia quickly recognized Montenegrin sovereignty. Mr. Deripaska ultimately left Montenegro when pro-EU forces gained the upper hand politically and the state cut subsidies to his business there, crippling it, said Mr. Polt, the former ambassador.

    Keep in mind that Deripaska’s and Moscow’s backing for Montenegro’s independence had an interesting ally in the US: Senator John McCain, one of the primary backers of the IRI. Also keep in mind that Rick Davis used to be McCain’s top political strategist. Small world. So while Manafort’s work on Montenegro’s independence might seem like another instance of Manafort working against US interests, it’s more complicated than that.

    So that all should give some additional context about Konstantin Kilimnik, Paul Manafort, and the work they did in Ukraine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 11, 2018, 8:34 am
  10. Here’s a pair of articles with some interesting information about Paul Manfort’s work in Ukraine and his working relationships with clients in Russia. And it also includes a rather intriguing fun fact pointing to a possible relationship between Manafort and Andrii Artemenko going back to 2013 in the midst of the talks over Ukraine entering into a trade union with the EU (i.e. the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying push):

    McClatchy got Paul Manafort’s flight records into and out of Ukraine from 2004 to 2015. According to those records, Manafort visited Ukraine at least 138 times during that period.

    Records also show Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow during this period. Although all of those trips took place between 2005 and 2011 and were mostly in 2005-2006. Note that this timeline, with most of the trips to Moscow in 2005 and 2006, is consistent with the profile of Manafort beginning his consulting work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in 2004 but then having a falling out in 2007 over Deripaska’s suspicions Manafort’s firm stole over $1 million from Deripaska’s investments in the Pericles private equity fund. So based on Paul Manafort’s flight records it looks like his relationship to Moscow clients were probably pretty limited to work for Oleg Deripaska.

    And here’s the flight information related to Andrii Artemenko and the “Hapsburg Group”: in July of 2013, Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik flew from eastern Ukraine to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by a Ukrainian aircraft company, Belbek Avia. And Belbek Avia’s founders included the father of Andrii Artemenko. Since Artmenko is consistently described in the press as a “pro-Russian” Ukrainian politician – which is the opposite of the available information about him – this trip to Frankfurt is characterized as a possible sign of a Manafort coordinating with Moscow to derail the EU trade union talks.

    And it’s worth recalling that one of the more intriguing aspects of the “Hapsburg Group” is the involvement of German politicians. Specifically, SPD leader Martin Schulz. And now we learn about a flight to Frankfurt in July of 2013 on a plane owned by a company co-founded by Andrii Artemenko’s dad.

    The article also includes some comments about the work Manafort did for the Opposition Bloc (formerly the Party of Regions) in 2014 following the Maidan protests and collapse of the Yanukovych government. Manafort is hailed as “a genius” by Opposition Bloc leader Nestor Shufrych for his advice encouraging the party to be the “voice of Russians in (Ukraine’s) East” and to take an anti-NATO stance. This is being cited as an example of how Manafort was acting as a Kremlin agent.

    But as we’ll see in the second article, Manafort would have had to have been implausibly negligent as a political advisor if he didn’t give that exact advice and it was the kind of advice the Opposition Bloc probably didn’t need because it was so obvious. As Gallup pointed out in March of 2014, Ukrainians in general had never warmed to the idea of joining NATO. It was more popular in the West and Central-Ukraine, but not the South and East and that had been the case all along. And the new innovation Manafort brought to Ukrainian politics was modern polling techniques, which revealed a general lack of support for joining NATO as far back as 2006 when the Party of Regions first took it up. So while Manafort appeared to generally be pushing Yanukovych’s party towards the West, there was no plausible way Manafort could have ignored those polls while dispensing his political advice.

    So let’s start off with a look at Paul Manafort’s flight records. Flight records that appear to show a significant drop off in his trips to Moscow after 2006 and a rather mysterious flight to Frankfurt in 2013 that sure looks a lot like it could be related to the “Hapsburg Group” diplomatic push to get Ukraine in the EU trade union:

    McClatchy DC

    Exclusive: Manafort flight records show deeper Kremlin ties than previously known

    By Peter Stone And Greg Gordon
    November 27, 2017 05:00 AM

    WASHINGTON

    Political guru Paul Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties.

    Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, “100 percent.”

    It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.

    Manafort’s flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities, including current and former government officials, suggest the links between Trump’s former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously thought.

    What’s now known leads some Russia experts to suspect that the Kremlin’s emissaries at times turned Manafort into an asset acting on Russia’s behalf. “You can make a case that all along he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who communicated with Manafort during Yanukovych’s reign in President George W. Bush’s second term.

    “He’s at best got a conflict of interest and at worst is really doing Putin’s bidding,” said Fried, now a fellow with the Atlantic Council.

    Land of the oligarchs

    The trail of Manafort’s decade of dealings 5,000 miles from America’s capital is murky. But the previously unreported flight records, spanning from late 2004 through 2015, reflect a man seemingly always on the move. Over those years, Manafort visited Ukraine at least 138 times. His trips between Ukraine and Moscow all occurred between 2005 and 2011 and were mostly in 2005 and 2006.

    Prosecutors have charged that Manafort and associate Rick Gates funneled through a maze of foreign accounts at least $75 million in consulting fees from an array of Kremlin-leaning clients: Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who secretly paid them $10 million annually for several years; a second Ukrainian oligarch; and the ruling Party of Regions, which supported Yanukovych until corruption allegations and bloody protests led to his overthrow in February 2014.

    Maloni said Manafort’s trips to Russia were “related to his work on behalf of Oleg Deripaska’s commercial interests.”

    The further unmasking of Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska in recent months, however, has heightened suspicions about Manafort.

    In July 2016, weeks after he was named Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort crafted an unusual, eyebrow-raising proposal for Deripaska, a member of Putin’s inner circle. In emails first reported by the Washington Post, Manafort offered in seemingly coded language to provide “private briefings” on the U.S. presidential race for the Russian aluminum magnate. Manafort directed a trusted associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, to relay his message to Deripaska, remarking that it could be a way to make himself “whole” — possibly an allusion to a multimillion-dollar legal action Deripaska had filed against Manafort. Kilimnik, a Ukrainian citizen, once attended a Russian military academy known for training spies.

    Globe-trotting consultant

    Manafort first began to establish connections in Ukraine – ground zero in the geopolitical struggle between Putin’s Russia and the West – in late 2004. His reputation as a masterful political strategist and fixer was earned over decades hopping planes to the Congo, Philippines and elsewhere to advise authoritarian rulers friendly with the United States.

    By the end of that year, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine was paralyzed by widespread protests amid allegations that Yanukovych, the prime minister in a government rife with corruption, had won the presidency in a rigged election. What became the Orange Revolution persisted until another, internationally monitored vote was held and rival Victor Yushchenko was declared the winner.

    Manafort and a partner formed Davis Manafort Partners Inc. in early 2005 and opened offices in Kiev.

    Manafort’s first client in Ukraine was Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man and a key funder of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Deripaska introduced Manafort to Akhmetov, who hailed from Russia-leaning Eastern Ukraine. In the summer of 2005, Akhmetov tapped Manafort to help Yanukovych and his party in the 2006 elections, according to an American consultant based in Kiev, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid damaging relationships.

    Manafort spent the next several years advising Deripaska, Akhmetov and other Ukrainian oligarchs and giving the gruff-talking Yanukovych a makeover down to his hair style and attire. Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010.

    In 2014, however, Manafort’s business took a hit when Yanukovych fled to Russia, days before Kremlin-backed forces invaded Eastern Ukraine. He was quickly hired by the Opposition Bloc, which leaned even more toward Moscow.

    His work drew rave reviews from one Oppo Bloc leader, Nestor Shufrych, whom multiple people in positions to know described as a close ally of Medvedchuk. Shufrych told a Ukrainian publication that Manafort urged the new party to take an anti-NATO stance and be the “voice of Russians in (Ukraine’s) East.”

    Calling Manafort “a genius,” Shufrych said the party had paid him about $1 million, and the investment “paid off.”

    Philip Griffin, a former associate of Manafort’s who consults in Kiev, said he could not imagine Manafort opposing NATO. “Paul Manafort is a Reagan Republican,” Griffin said. “He would never betray that legacy by doing Russia’s bidding.”

    Maloni said Manafort argued strongly that “Ukraine was better served by having closer relations with the West and NATO.”

    He also said Manafort succeeded in pushing “a number of major initiatives that were strongly supported by the U.S. government and opposed by Russia,” including the denuclearization of Ukraine and the expansion of NATO exercises in the region.

    One of Shufrych’s and Oppo Bloc’s behind-the-scenes allies was Medvedchuk, who is so close to Putin that the Russian president is the godfather of his daughter.

    Partial transcripts from tape recordings of then-Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, published in 2002, show Kumcha saying: “Well, we know about it, that he was a KGB agent, 100 percent.”

    Details of Manafort’s contacts with Medvedchuk could not be learned. But Medvedchuk, who is under U.S. sanctions, has acknowledged meeting Manafort once in 2014.

    Flights of interest

    Another Manafort trip that could interest investigators took place in July 2013 when Manafort and Kilimnik flew from eastern Ukraine to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by Belbek Avia, according to the flight records. The aircraft company’s founders included the father of Andrey Artemenko, a Ukrainian legislator. Through an attorney, Andrey Artemenko denied that Belbek Avia ever owned an aircraft.

    American experts on Russia said privately they suspect the trip was a prelude to a broader Russian influence effort to dissuade Yanukovych’s government from signing an agreement to associate with the European Union. That decision, experts say, opened the door to Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine. This year, Artemenko was expelled from the Ukrainian legislature and his citizenship was revoked after disclosures he and a Trump attorney had pitched a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia widely seen as favoring Moscow.

    Correction and clarification: The story has been updated to say that the aircraft used on one flight was not owned by Andrey Artemenko, but rather by an aircraft company whose founders included his father; and to include that Artemenko denies that the company ever owned an aircraft or that he has ever been “pro-Russian.”

    ———-

    “Exclusive: Manafort flight records show deeper Kremlin ties than previously known” by Peter Stone And Greg Gordon; McClatchy DC; 11/27/2017

    Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, “100 percent.””

    Even after the fall of Yanukovych’s government following the Maidan protests, Paul Manafort still made 19 trips to Kiev as part of his work remaking the Party of Regions as the “Opposition Bloc”. It’s actually quite reminiscent of Manafort getting hired by the Rinat Akhmetov in 2005 to advise the Party of Regions following the Orange Revolution: Manafort coming to the rescue of the Party of Regions with savvy political advice after a mass protest topples the government:


    Globe-trotting consultant

    Manafort first began to establish connections in Ukraine – ground zero in the geopolitical struggle between Putin’s Russia and the West – in late 2004. His reputation as a masterful political strategist and fixer was earned over decades hopping planes to the Congo, Philippines and elsewhere to advise authoritarian rulers friendly with the United States.

    By the end of that year, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine was paralyzed by widespread protests amid allegations that Yanukovych, the prime minister in a government rife with corruption, had won the presidency in a rigged election. What became the Orange Revolution persisted until another, internationally monitored vote was held and rival Victor Yushchenko was declared the winner.

    Manafort and a partner formed Davis Manafort Partners Inc. in early 2005 and opened offices in Kiev.

    Manafort’s first client in Ukraine was Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man and a key funder of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Deripaska introduced Manafort to Akhmetov, who hailed from Russia-leaning Eastern Ukraine. In the summer of 2005, Akhmetov tapped Manafort to help Yanukovych and his party in the 2006 elections, according to an American consultant based in Kiev, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid damaging relationships.

    The multimillion-dollar political consulting deal was sealed at a meeting in an elite Moscow hotel attended by Manafort, Akhmetov and a half dozen other wealthy Ukrainians.

    Manafort spent the next several years advising Deripaska, Akhmetov and other Ukrainian oligarchs and giving the gruff-talking Yanukovych a makeover down to his hair style and attire. Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010.

    And Manafort’s advice certainly got rave reviews by some in the Party of Regions/Oppo Bloc, like Nestor Shufrych, who called Manafort’s advice for the Oppo Bloc to take an anti-NATO stance and frame itself as the ““voice of Russians in (Ukraine’s) East,” as genius:


    In 2014, however, Manafort’s business took a hit when Yanukovych fled to Russia, days before Kremlin-backed forces invaded Eastern Ukraine. He was quickly hired by the Opposition Bloc, which leaned even more toward Moscow.

    His work drew rave reviews from one Oppo Bloc leader, Nestor Shufrych, whom multiple people in positions to know described as a close ally of Medvedchuk. Shufrych told a Ukrainian publication that Manafort urged the new party to take an anti-NATO stance and be the “voice of Russians in (Ukraine’s) East.”

    Calling Manafort “a genius,” Shufrych said the party had paid him about $1 million, and the investment “paid off.”

    Although people close to Manafort, like Philip Griffin (who was the former head of the Moscow branch of the International Republican Institute before joining Manafort’s consulting firm), assert that Manafort, a “Reagan Republican” would have never considered encouraging Ukraine to take an anti-NATO stance:


    Philip Griffin, a former associate of Manafort’s who consults in Kiev, said he could not imagine Manafort opposing NATO. “Paul Manafort is a Reagan Republican,” Griffin said. “He would never betray that legacy by doing Russia’s bidding.”

    Maloni said Manafort argued strongly that “Ukraine was better served by having closer relations with the West and NATO.”

    He also said Manafort succeeded in pushing “a number of major initiatives that were strongly supported by the U.S. government and opposed by Russia,” including the denuclearization of Ukraine and the expansion of NATO exercises in the region.

    Of course, as we’re going to see in the following articles, Manafort would have had to have been brain dead not to advise the Oppo Bloc to take an anti-NATO stance because anti-NATO stances are wildly popular with Ukrainian voters in the East and South and have been for years. In other words, advising the Oppo Bloc to take an anti-NATO position wasn’t an act of political “genius”. It was so obviously the thing to do that Manafort would have been discrediting himself as a plausible political advisor if he didn’t make that recommendation.

    But that anti-NATO advice Manafort gave is still inevitably cited as an example of how he was actually acting as a Kremlin agent during his years of working in Ukraine. And that’s part of what makes the flights logs to Moscow rather interesting. Because those logs do indeed show 18 flights to Moscow, but they all occurred between 2005 and 2011 and most of them happened in 2005-2006. And as we saw, Manafort’s work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska appeared to fizzle out by 2007 over the Pericles private equity fund that Deripaska felt Manafort used to cheat him. So learning that his trips to Moscow dropped off after 2006 appears to reflect that falling out with Deripaska and points towards these flights primarily involving Manafort’s work for Deripaska:


    Political guru Paul Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties.

    Land of the oligarchs

    The trail of Manafort’s decade of dealings 5,000 miles from America’s capital is murky. But the previously unreported flight records, spanning from late 2004 through 2015, reflect a man seemingly always on the move. Over those years, Manafort visited Ukraine at least 138 times. His trips between Ukraine and Moscow all occurred between 2005 and 2011 and were mostly in 2005 and 2006.

    Prosecutors have charged that Manafort and associate Rick Gates funneled through a maze of foreign accounts at least $75 million in consulting fees from an array of Kremlin-leaning clients: Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who secretly paid them $10 million annually for several years; a second Ukrainian oligarch; and the ruling Party of Regions, which supported Yanukovych until corruption allegations and bloody protests led to his overthrow in February 2014.

    Maloni said Manafort’s trips to Russia were “related to his work on behalf of Oleg Deripaska’s commercial interests.”

    The further unmasking of Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska in recent months, however, has heightened suspicions about Manafort.

    In July 2016, weeks after he was named Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort crafted an unusual, eyebrow-raising proposal for Deripaska, a member of Putin’s inner circle. In emails first reported by the Washington Post, Manafort offered in seemingly coded language to provide “private briefings” on the U.S. presidential race for the Russian aluminum magnate. Manafort directed a trusted associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, to relay his message to Deripaska, remarking that it could be a way to make himself “whole” — possibly an allusion to a multimillion-dollar legal action Deripaska had filed against Manafort. Kilimnik, a Ukrainian citizen, once attended a Russian military academy known for training spies.

    But by far the most interesting flight in those flight logs is a curious flight July 20th, 2013 flight that Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik (another former International Republican Institute employee who, along with Philip Griffin, joined Manafort’s consulting firm) took from eastern Ukraine to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by Belbek Avia. And one of the co-founders of Belbek Avia is Andrii Artemenko’s father:


    Flights of interest

    Another Manafort trip that could interest investigators took place in July 2013 when Manafort and Kilimnik flew from eastern Ukraine to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by Belbek Avia, according to the flight records. The aircraft company’s founders included the father of Andrey Artemenko, a Ukrainian legislator. Through an attorney, Andrey Artemenko denied that Belbek Avia ever owned an aircraft.

    And a big part of what makes this mystery flight so mysterious is that it happened right in the middle of the final diplomatic tussle over Ukraine’s acceptance into a trade union with the EU which puts it right in the middle of the “Hapsburg Group” initiative – an initiative to convince the US and European governments to allow Ukraine into the EU trade union despite their misgivings over issues like the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko – Manafort is accused of secretly managing. And some of Germany’s top politicians appeared to be involved with the Hapsburg Group diplomacy. Recall how the politicians recruited to assist with the “Hapsburg Group” claimed to also be working with Martin Schulz of Germany’s SPD. In other words, there was a clear German component of the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying push, and now we learn about a to Frankfurt on a private plane right in the middle of that effort in July of 2013 and the plane was apparently owned by a company co-founded by Andrii Artemenko’s dad.

    Also don’t forget that Artemenko’s political background puts him squarely in the Tymoshenko camp early on in his political career before moving on to the Radical Party and close ties with Right Sector. So one big question raised by the possibility that Artemenko was also engaged with this “Hapsburg Group” diplomatic initiative is whether or not he was on the side of those who argued Tymoshenko’s release from jail should be required or not to allow Ukraine into a trade union. The jailing of Tymoshenko was a key sticking point over those trade union negotiations. Did Artemenko believe Tymoshenko’s release should be a sticking point? It would be an interesting fun fact to learn.

    Of course, this mystery flight is being characterized as a possible “prelude to a broader Russian influence effort to dissuade Yanukovych’s government from signing an agreement to associate with the European Union”:


    American experts on Russia said privately they suspect the trip was a prelude to a broader Russian influence effort to dissuade Yanukovych’s government from signing an agreement to associate with the European Union. That decision, experts say, opened the door to Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine. This year, Artemenko was expelled from the Ukrainian legislature and his citizenship was revoked after disclosures he and a Trump attorney had pitched a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia widely seen as favoring Moscow.

    So it’s important to keep in mind that, in addition to the EU/US demands for the release of Tymoshenko, another key reason Yanukovych ended the trade union negotiations in late 2013 is that the EU really did offer a very crappy deal. There were massively expensive demands that Ukraine modernize its economy but very little financial assistance. And this was happening during the peak of the EU’s austerity madness where budget shortfalls were used to justify massively unpopular austerity. So a trade union with the EU was exceptionally unappetizing at that particular moment in time all thanks to the EU’s exceptionally ill-advised austerity policies. In other words, one likely motive for pinning the blame on Ukraine backing out of the EU trade union negotiations at the last minute on Paul Manafort is to avoid confronting the fact that the EU’s austerity brutality probably played a big role in sinking the deal.

    Finally, let’s note the comments from Daniel Fried, an Atlantic Council member and a former assistant secretary of state who was in communication with Manafort during George W. Bush’s second term while Manafort was advising Yanukovych and Deripaska (indicating that Manafort was talking to the US government during this time). Fried has a rather revealing comment about what Manafort was telling the US government:


    It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.

    Manafort’s flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities, including current and former government officials, suggest the links between Trump’s former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously thought.

    What’s now known leads some Russia experts to suspect that the Kremlin’s emissaries at times turned Manafort into an asset acting on Russia’s behalf. “You can make a case that all along he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who communicated with Manafort during Yanukovych’s reign in President George W. Bush’s second term.

    “He’s at best got a conflict of interest and at worst is really doing Putin’s bidding,” said Fried, now a fellow with the Atlantic Council.

    “What’s now known leads some Russia experts to suspect that the Kremlin’s emissaries at times turned Manafort into an asset acting on Russia’s behalf. “You can make a case that all along he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who communicated with Manafort during Yanukovych’s reign in President George W. Bush’s second term.

    As Fried, who was in contact with Manafort, describes it, you could make the case that Manafort was a Russian asset “all along”. Or maybe he was just trying to play both sides against each other for personal gain. That’s how Fried sees it. So it’s worth noting that those two scenarios Fried sees as plausible are actually two very different scenarios and highlights the ambiguous nature of the information on Manafort. Playing “both sides against each other” isn’t the kind of thing you would expect from a Kremlin or US asset.

    A fascist asset, on the other hand, would be more than happy to play the US and Russia against each other. So don’t forget to consider the scenario that Manafort really was acting for a foreign power, but not Russia. And that foreign power might be a non-nation state like the Underground Reich or some other power network interested in seeing the US and Russia head towards conflict in Ukraine (the Habsburgs, perhaps?).

    At the same time, the fact that Yanukovych’s sudden turn away from the EU trade union negotiations was reasonable given the crap deal the EU was offering is a reminder that the negotiations may have fallen apart despite Manafort’s best efforts to keep them going. As Fried indicated in his comments, there’s a wide variety of scenarios that fit the data we have on Manafort, and that includes the scenario where he made a legitimate push to get Ukraine into that trade union and the deal still fell apart. Or the scenario he was working both sides against each other.

    There are a variety of scenarios that fit the data. But as we’ll see from Fried’s comments in the following article, Manafort appeared to be communicating with certainty to the US government that Yanukovych was indeed someone who would move Ukraine close to the West. As Fried puts it: “Manafort’s guy turned out to be not the guy Manafort said he was…Either Manafort was unable to deliver the guy or he was spinning us and had no intention of doing anything but collecting his very large fees.”

    So Manafort was telling the US that Yanukovych was “the guy”, according to Fried. Recall how the profiles of Konstantin Kilimnik indicated that the Yanukovych team concluded they needed to work with someone from “the other side” to win after the Orange Revolution protests and Manafort proceeded to hire to former employees of the Moscow branch of the International Republican Institute, Konstantin Kilimnik and Philip Griffin, to assist with that consulting effort. Might Manafort have been telling the US government Yanukovych was “the guy” who would move Ukraine closer to the West when Kilimnik and Griffin left the International Republican Institute in 2005 to help advise Yanukovych and the Party of Regions?

    Manafort also told the US that Yanukovych was the one Ukrainian who could Ukraine closer to the West at a pace Putin could stand. That’s also according to Fried. So while it’s somewhat ambiguous who Manafort was ultimately working for, he appeared to be actively trying to convince the US State Department he was ultimately working for them:

    Bloomberg

    Paul Manafort’s Lucrative Ukraine Years Are Central to the Russia Probe

    Trump’s former campaign manager had receded into the background, but there’s renewed interest in the millions he made promoting Kremlin-friendly interests.

    By Stephanie Baker and Daryna Krasnolutska
    May 22, 2017, 3:00 AM CDT

    Jim Slattery arrived at the Stalin-era presidential headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine, with an unusual gift for the nation’s strongman leader: a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

    It was March 2013, and the former U.S. congressman had traveled to Ukraine to persuade President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, to free Yanukovych’s arch rival from prison. The statuette came with a hopeful message: You, Slattery told the president, could be the Lincoln of Ukraine—a leader who binds up the nation’s wounds.

    What Slattery didn’t know was that another American operative was helping the president defend the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, an act widely condemned in the Western world.

    His name: Paul Manafort, future presidential campaign manager for Donald Trump. Today, Manafort sits at the center of the concentric circles of worry and suspicion over what President Trump has called “this Russia thing.” What began with questions about Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election has Democrats, and even some Republicans, now warning of Trump’s Watergate.

    Two dozen interviews in Ukraine, Russia and the U.S., as well as a review of scores of documents from Ukrainian prosecutors, offer a detailed portrait of Manafort’s work in Kiev, which provided a template for some aspects of Trump’s populist campaign, including several key members of the team.

    In the decade before he worked for Trump, Manafort’s efforts did for Moscow what its finest political minds had failed to do: help get a pro-Russian candidate installed in Kiev. It culminated in Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the revival of Cold War tensions, Western sanctions on Russia’s energy and banking sectors and Russia’s campaign to get those sanctions removed.

    Manafort, 68, had claimed Yanukovych was the one Ukrainian who could lead his country closer to the West at a pace Putin could stand, according to Dan Fried, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for the region which includes Ukraine. But that proved false.

    “Manafort’s guy turned out to be not the guy Manafort said he was,” Fried said. “Either Manafort was unable to deliver the guy or he was spinning us and had no intention of doing anything but collecting his very large fees.”

    Jason Maloni, a Manafort spokesman, denied that his work helped Russia. He said, “Although Mr. Manafort’s focus was always domestic Ukrainian politics, that work did make a difference and helped move the Ukraine towards a Western orbit and further from a Russian orbit.”

    Manafort, who denies any contact with Russian government officials, never registered as a lobbyist for a foreign government for his Ukrainian work. His spokesman said Manafort had “received formal guidance recently from the authorities” on registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for some of his work, none of which, he contended, was for the Russian government.

    Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating what they call a “criminal organization” set up by Yanukovych via bribes and theft of state assets before he fled to Moscow after the killing of more than 100 protesters in 2014, and they are looking at what role Manafort may have played in the suspected scheme. They’ve repeatedly asked the FBI for help to question Manafort as part of their inquiry into a New York law firm in connection to a report that largely defended the Tymoshenko prosecution.

    “We’re waiting for a response,” says Serhiy Gorbatyuk, Ukraine’s head of special prosecutions, his desk piled high with papers.

    In the five-year period from 2007 to 2012, Manafort was paid at least $12.7 million, according to a handwritten Party of Regions ledger found later in its head office. Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau and the FBI are investigating whether the ledger reflected any illegal payments to Manafort and to others. Manafort’s spokesman says that after being paid he had many expenses and so the payment figure does not represent profit. One payment to Manafort on the ledger matches an invoice he signed in 2009 to sell $750,000 of computers to a Belize-registered company called Neocom Systems Ltd., according to documents obtained by Leshchenko from Manafort’s Kiev office.

    Manafort’s contacts with pro-Russian politicians go beyond Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. Viktor Medvedchuk said he met Manafort in 2014. Medvedchuk is so close to the Kremlin that Putin is godfather to his daughter and he is under U.S. sanctions because of his role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In a written response to questions, he said of Manafort that he was “the best, both among foreign and domestic political consultants. The events of the past year in the United States have only strengthened my opinion.” He said he had not had contact with Manafort since then. Manafort’s spokesman confirmed the 2014 meeting but said he didn’t recall interacting with Medvedchuk directly.

    Even after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Yanukovych fled to Russia, Manafort returned to Ukraine 17 times, earning at least $1 million to help reelect pro-Russia politicians, according to a party official who worked with him. Manafort’s spokesman declined to comment on that payment.

    The idea of working in Ukraine first came to Manafort in 2004 from Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who controls aluminum producer Rusal, according to a person familiar with the situation. Ukraine was in the throes of the Orange Revolution—protests over allegations of electoral fraud in Yanukovych’s November 2004 victory. The Supreme Court ordered a new election. Manafort’s then-partner, Rick Davis, went to Kiev and concluded it was too late to help. Yanukovych’s pro-Western rival Viktor Yushchenko won.

    Manafort arrived in 2005 to advise Ukraine’s richest man, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who was worried his business interests might be seized by President Yushchenko. That same year, Davis Manafort Partners Inc. registered a company in Moscow at an address used by more than 80 other firms. It’s unclear whether the company actually functioned, and Manafort’s spokesman said no such office was opened. While working in Ukraine, Manafort earned millions from a side private equity fund with Deripaska, according to a lawsuit by Deripaska, who is suing Manafort in the Cayman Islands over the soured business partnership. Deripaska declined to comment.

    Akhmetov, then a major financial backer of the Party of Regions, asked Manafort to help Yanukovych’s 2006 parliamentary election campaign. Manafort hired as many as 40 top-flight U.S. campaign workers, some of whom later worked on the Trump campaign, including Tim Unes, who organized Trump’s rallies, and Rick Gates.

    A workaholic who answers emails at 3 a.m., Manafort and his team set about portraying Yanukovych as a strong leader, picturing him beside Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Crucial to the strategy—and new to Ukraine—was research from focus groups and better polling to drive messaging. Among the issues: the rights of Russian-speakers and opposition to Ukraine’s joining NATO.

    “He was going for visceral issues and an emotional reaction,” says Kateryna Yushchenko, the American-born wife of former President Viktor Yushchenko and a onetime State Department and White House official. “When I confronted his people about it, they said, ‘That’s politics.’ I said this isn’t like gun rights or abortion. Here it could lead to war.”

    Even though he hired Manafort, Yanukovych retained Russian advisers from Moscow, including Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of Putin’s United Russia faction, and Sergei Glazyev, Putin’s current adviser on Ukraine, according to Taras Chornovil, a top Party of Regions official until 2008. A spokesman for Glazyev confirmed he advised Yanukovych from 2004 to 2009 but didn’t consult with Manafort. Nikonov didn’t respond to requests for comment. Manafort’s spokesman said he doesn’t recall interacting with either one.

    The Party of Regions emerged from the 2006 election with the largest number of seats in parliament; Yanukovych became prime minister. His victory was short-lived, however. His political struggle with President Yushchenko resulted in elections a year later. This time Manafort ran a cookie-cutter campaign. In one ad, a Party of Regions poster showed what was purportedly a smiling blonde Ukrainian girl holding a bright yellow umbrella under the slogan “Stability and Prosperity.” In reality, Manafort’s advisers had plucked a stock photograph of an American girl.

    His party did well but Yanukovych was pushed into opposition after Tymoshenko cobbled together a ruling coalition. In 2008, then-President Yushchenko announced a campaign for eventual Ukrainian membership in NATO. To exploit widespread opposition to NATO, Manafort’s team brought a truck to the parliament filled with anti-NATO balloons and instructed parliamentarians to each take one into the chamber.

    Ukraine’s hope of joining NATO ended with its 2010 presidential election. With Manafort guiding him, Yanukovych won narrowly. Manafort prepared Yanukovych’s first visit as head of state to Washington that April. He advised Yanukovych to give up Ukraine’s remaining stock of highly enriched uranium, according to a person close to the situation. Ukraine had given up its nuclear weapons in 1994 and there was little sacrifice involved in yielding the uranium. But it helped Yanukovych clinch a major prize: a photo of him beaming alongside President Barack Obama.

    Within months of his victory, Yanukovych ordered criminal investigations into Tymoshenko, culminating in a sentence of seven years in jail. Condemned around the world, her prosecution would become a flashpoint in negotiations between Ukraine and the European Union on an association agreement.

    Manafort was closely involved in recruiting the firm of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC on behalf of the Ukrainian Justice Ministry to write a lengthy report on Tymoshenko’s prosecution. He met with Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych to go over the contract with Skadden and emailed with Skadden partner Greg Craig, according to documents uncovered by Ukrainian prosecutors. The ministry agreed to pay Skadden a mere $12,000, just below the threshold requiring it to go to a public tender. But much more money was to come to Skadden.

    Prosecutors believe Manafort drew up a six-page media strategy plan with FTI Consulting on how to use the Skadden report, based on documents they have examined. The report, released at the end of 2012, criticized some aspects of the case but concluded that the evidence supported her conviction and that her due process rights hadn’t been violated. After the document’s release, Skadden signed a new contract with the ministry in 2013 that envisaged “additional work” and paid the firm $1 million, the prosecutors say, noting that no additional work was done. FTI declined to comment.

    After Skadden prepared its report, Manafort was prepping the Party of Regions for another parliamentary election in October 2012, bringing in Tony Fabrizio, who would later become the Trump campaign’s chief pollster. International monitors said the elections were marked by the abuse of state resources and lack of transparency in party financing.

    Manafort advised Yanukovych to push ahead with an association agreement with the EU. But the EU insisted he release Tymoshenko, while Putin pressured him to abandon the deal. In November 2013, Yanukovych terminated negotiations with the EU. The move triggered widespread protests.

    Thousands camped out on Kiev’s Independence Square. More than 100 were killed in 2014 right before Yanukovych fled to Moscow. Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating who’s responsible and have combed through hacked text messages from Manafort’s daughter, Andrea, about her father’s role in cracking down on the uprising. Her texts say their money is “blood money.” Andrea Manafort didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Months after Russia annexed Crimea, Manafort returned to Ukraine to advise the pro-Russian anti-NATO party, now known as the Opposition Bloc, for the 2014 parliamentary elections, again bringing Fabrizio on board. Nestor Shufrych, one of the party leaders, says Manafort pushed for them to be the voice of Russians in the east. Shufrych thought they had no chance but they got nearly 10 percent, with 29 seats. Manafort personally approved the list of candidates, according to another party official.

    Shufrych says the party paid Manafort roughly $1 million. The two celebrated over a bottle of cognac at Manafort’s Kiev office.

    “The investment in Manafort paid off,” he said. “He’s a genius.”

    ———-

    “Paul Manafort’s Lucrative Ukraine Years Are Central to the Russia Probe” by Stephanie Baker and Daryna Krasnolutska; Bloomberg; 05/22/2017

    ““Manafort’s guy turned out to be not the guy Manafort said he was,” Fried said. “Either Manafort was unable to deliver the guy or he was spinning us and had no intention of doing anything but collecting his very large fees.””

    As we can see, Dan Fried, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for the region which includes Ukraine for George W. Bush’s second term, is basing his suspicions of Manafort working for the Kremlin on a palpable sense of betrayal. Manafort was “spinning us” about Yanukovych and Manafort couldn’t “deliver” like he claimed he would. It’s a sense of betrayal that appears to ignore how Manafort spent years slowing getting Yanukovych’s government deeply involved in trade union negotiations that fell apart at the last minue with the EU’s crap offer and austerity bonanza. As Fried put it, Manafort assured them he was moving Ukraine closer to the West “at a pace Putin could stand”. And he did indeed appear to do that:


    Manafort, 68, had claimed Yanukovych was the one Ukrainian who could lead his country closer to the West at a pace Putin could stand, according to Dan Fried, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for the region which includes Ukraine. But that proved false.

    And note how Manafort’s work helping Yanukovych defend the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko is characterized working in Moscow’s interests, which ignores how, as Yanukovych’s adviser, the most ‘pro-West’ thing Manafort could have done is help Yanukovych make the case that the jailing shouldn’t get in the way of a trade union with the EU. Which, again, is much of what the entire “Hapsburg Group” initiative was all about:


    Jim Slattery arrived at the Stalin-era presidential headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine, with an unusual gift for the nation’s strongman leader: a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

    It was March 2013, and the former U.S. congressman had traveled to Ukraine to persuade President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, to free Yanukovych’s arch rival from prison. The statuette came with a hopeful message: You, Slattery told the president, could be the Lincoln of Ukraine—a leader who binds up the nation’s wounds.

    What Slattery didn’t know was that another American operative was helping the president defend the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, an act widely condemned in the Western world.

    And that “Hapsburg Group” lobbying effort Manafort was leading in 2012 and 2013 to convince US and EU leaders that Tymoshenko’s jailing shouldn’t stand in the way of the EU-Ukraine trade union involved Manafort recruiting the firm of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC on behalf of the Ukrainian Justice Ministry to write a lengthy report on Tymoshenko’s prosecution. Don’t forget that the particular Skadden Arps lawyer who worked on that 2012 report – Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch lawyer and son-in-law of Alfa bank co-founder German Khan – ended up getting prosecuted by the US for lying to the FBI about the extent of his communications with Manafort’s partner Rick Gates in 2016. Then Manafort wrote up a media strategy based on using this report. A media strategy designed to convince people that the jailing of Tymoshenko didn’t violate her due process and shouldn’t stand in the way of the trade union:


    Within months of his victory, Yanukovych ordered criminal investigations into Tymoshenko, culminating in a sentence of seven years in jail. Condemned around the world, her prosecution would become a flashpoint in negotiations between Ukraine and the European Union on an association agreement.

    Manafort was closely involved in recruiting the firm of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC on behalf of the Ukrainian Justice Ministry to write a lengthy report on Tymoshenko’s prosecution. He met with Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych to go over the contract with Skadden and emailed with Skadden partner Greg Craig, according to documents uncovered by Ukrainian prosecutors. The ministry agreed to pay Skadden a mere $12,000, just below the threshold requiring it to go to a public tender. But much more money was to come to Skadden.

    Prosecutors believe Manafort drew up a six-page media strategy plan with FTI Consulting on how to use the Skadden report, based on documents they have examined. The report, released at the end of 2012, criticized some aspects of the case but concluded that the evidence supported her conviction and that her due process rights hadn’t been violated. After the document’s release, Skadden signed a new contract with the ministry in 2013 that envisaged “additional work” and paid the firm $1 million, the prosecutors say, noting that no additional work was done. FTI declined to comment.

    Then, after the Skadden report is released, Manafort starts prepping for the Party of Regions for the October 2012 parliamentary elections, bringing on board Tony Fabrizio, who would later become the Trump campaign’s chief pollster. Note that Fabrizio is a veteran GOP pollster. He was chief pollster for Bob Doles 1996 presidential campaign and has worked for dozens of US Senators and Governors. And in 2012 he was recruited by Manafort to help the Party of Regions:


    After Skadden prepared its report, Manafort was prepping the Party of Regions for another parliamentary election in October 2012, bringing in Tony Fabrizio, who would later become the Trump campaign’s chief pollster. International monitors said the elections were marked by the abuse of state resources and lack of transparency in party financing.

    And at the same time Manafort is bringing on board a veteran GOP pollster to work for the Party of Regions he’s advising Yanukovych to push ahead with the trade union. The talks, which had a heavy focus on Tymoshenko’s release, continue through 2013 until Yanukovych ends the negotiations and suddenly decides to take Putin’s offer (don’t forget that the EU’s offer was crap and austerity). The subsequent protests over the pro-EU forces spiral into the Maidan protests that end with the collapse of Yanukovych’s government following the sniper attacks. Sniper attacks that Paul Manafort apparently played a role in according to the hacked text messages of his daughter:


    Manafort advised Yanukovych to push ahead with an association agreement with the EU. But the EU insisted he release Tymoshenko, while Putin pressured him to abandon the deal. In November 2013, Yanukovych terminated negotiations with the EU. The move triggered widespread protests.

    Thousands camped out on Kiev’s Independence Square. More than 100 were killed in 2014 right before Yanukovych fled to Moscow. Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating who’s responsible and have combed through hacked text messages from Manafort’s daughter, Andrea, about her father’s role in cracking down on the uprising. Her texts say their money is “blood money.” Andrea Manafort didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    And the financing of this lobbying effort was documented, at least in part, in the “Black Ledger” discovered in 2016. Recall that documents discovered in Manafort’s old Kiev office appear to corraborate at least some of those ledger entries, but the government investigation into the ledger had effectively froze last year due to fears of how many people outside of the Party of Regions in might implicate in Yanukovych’s kick-back system. So while Ukrainian prosecutors are indeed investigating the bribery system in place when Yanukovych was in power, it’s very unclear if those investigations will be allowed to actually proceed:


    Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating what they call a “criminal organization” set up by Yanukovych via bribes and theft of state assets before he fled to Moscow after the killing of more than 100 protesters in 2014, and they are looking at what role Manafort may have played in the suspected scheme. They’ve repeatedly asked the FBI for help to question Manafort as part of their inquiry into a New York law firm in connection to a report that largely defended the Tymoshenko prosecution.

    “We’re waiting for a response,” says Serhiy Gorbatyuk, Ukraine’s head of special prosecutions, his desk piled high with papers.

    In the five-year period from 2007 to 2012, Manafort was paid at least $12.7 million, according to a handwritten Party of Regions ledger found later in its head office. Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau and the FBI are investigating whether the ledger reflected any illegal payments to Manafort and to others. Manafort’s spokesman says that after being paid he had many expenses and so the payment figure does not represent profit. One payment to Manafort on the ledger matches an invoice he signed in 2009 to sell $750,000 of computers to a Belize-registered company called Neocom Systems Ltd., according to documents obtained by Leshchenko from Manafort’s Kiev office.

    But because that lobbying effort to get Ukraine into the EU trade union despite the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko ultimately failed, it is now widely characterized as somehow working for Moscow. As yet, Dan Fried revealed when he complained, “either Manafort was unable to deliver the guy or he was spinning us,” Manafort was clearly tell the US he could “deliver the guy”. And he almost did! So either Manafort and Yanukovych were engaged in some sort of incredibly highstakes strategy of pretending move Ukraine towards the EU with the plan of switching at the last moment, or it really is the case that Manafort tried but failed (because, again, the EU’s offer was crap).

    Similarly, Manafort’s advice to Yanukovych and the Party of Regions that they campaign of issues like opposition to NATO or being the voice of Russian-speaking Ukrainians is portrayed as a sign of his Moscow puppetmaster strings by many while it’s hailed as “genius!” by people from the Party of Regions. And yet, as the article points out, all Manafort was doing was running polls and discovering these were already popular ideas. That was his “genius” that led him to advise the Party of Regions adopt policies like opposition to pushing Ukraine into NATO: running polls and responding to them:


    Akhmetov, then a major financial backer of the Party of Regions, asked Manafort to help Yanukovych’s 2006 parliamentary election campaign. Manafort hired as many as 40 top-flight U.S. campaign workers, some of whom later worked on the Trump campaign, including Tim Unes, who organized Trump’s rallies, and Rick Gates.

    A workaholic who answers emails at 3 a.m., Manafort and his team set about portraying Yanukovych as a strong leader, picturing him beside Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Crucial to the strategy—and new to Ukraine—was research from focus groups and better polling to drive messaging. Among the issues: the rights of Russian-speakers and opposition to Ukraine’s joining NATO.

    “He was going for visceral issues and an emotional reaction,” says Kateryna Yushchenko, the American-born wife of former President Viktor Yushchenko and a onetime State Department and White House official. “When I confronted his people about it, they said, ‘That’s politics.’ I said this isn’t like gun rights or abortion. Here it could lead to war.”

    “Crucial to the strategy—and new to Ukraine—was research from focus groups and better polling to drive messaging. Among the issues: the rights of Russian-speakers and opposition to Ukraine’s joining NATO.”

    Yep, when Manafort first advised the Party of Regions to adopt an anti-NATO position in the 2006 parliamentary elections, he was basing it on something that had was new to Ukraine: polls showing this was already popular. Genius!

    And then, in 2008, Viktor Yushchenko announces his plans to campaign for eventual NATO membership for Ukraine and Manafort recommends the same genius strategy of focusing on existing anti-NATO sentiments. More genius!:


    The Party of Regions emerged from the 2006 election with the largest number of seats in parliament; Yanukovych became prime minister. His victory was short-lived, however. His political struggle with President Yushchenko resulted in elections a year later. This time Manafort ran a cookie-cutter campaign. In one ad, a Party of Regions poster showed what was purportedly a smiling blonde Ukrainian girl holding a bright yellow umbrella under the slogan “Stability and Prosperity.” In reality, Manafort’s advisers had plucked a stock photograph of an American girl.

    His party did well but Yanukovych was pushed into opposition after Tymoshenko cobbled together a ruling coalition. In 2008, then-President Yushchenko announced a campaign for eventual Ukrainian membership in NATO. To exploit widespread opposition to NATO, Manafort’s team brought a truck to the parliament filled with anti-NATO balloons and instructed parliamentarians to each take one into the chamber.

    Then following Yanukovych’s ouster in 2014, Manafort agrees to continue advising the Party of Regions, rebranded as the Opposition Bloc. And look who he retains: GOP veteran pollster Tony Fabrizio. So Manafort had a major GOP pollster help him poll Ukrainians and come up recommendations like branding the Oppo Bloc as the “voice of Russians in the east.” A “genius” recommendation, as Nestor Shufych put it:


    Months after Russia annexed Crimea, Manafort returned to Ukraine to advise the pro-Russian anti-NATO party, now known as the Opposition Bloc, for the 2014 parliamentary elections, again bringing Fabrizio on board. Nestor Shufrych, one of the party leaders, says Manafort pushed for them to be the voice of Russians in the east. Shufrych thought they had no chance but they got nearly 10 percent, with 29 seats. Manafort personally approved the list of candidates, according to another party official.

    Shufrych says the party paid Manafort roughly $1 million. The two celebrated over a bottle of cognac at Manafort’s Kiev office.

    “The investment in Manafort paid off,” he said. “He’s a genius.”

    Don’t forget, in March of 2014, Gallup found that Ukrainians still weren’t generally interested in joining NATO even after the collapse of the Yanukovych government following the sniper attacks. So Manafort’s anti-NATO ‘genius’ advice was still Politics 101 even in 2014.

    And, of course, that anti-NATO advice was coupled with Manafort’s pro-EU trade union advice. Don’t forget what Dan Fried told us: that Manafort was telling the US government that Yanukovych was “the guy” who could move Ukraine closer to the West, at a pace Putin could stand. And based on Fried’s palpable sense of betrayal, it would seem that the US government more or less accepted that assessment. It’s another reason why Manafort’s anti-NATO advice shouldn’t necessarily be seen as an indication that Manafort was some Kremlin crony the whole time, in addition to the general unpopularity of the idea among Urkaine’s populace.

    And it’s in that larger context that we now learn about the mysterious flight to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by the father of Andrii Artemenko in the middle of the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying effort to get Ukraine into that trade union. Which raises an interesting question: Artemenko entered the Ukrainian parliament in 2014, and according to the parliament’s website Artemenko was the deputy head of the European Integration Committee and responsible for diplomatic connections with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United States, Kuwait, Lithuania and Belarus. Artemenko also has business ties to the US. So Artementko was involved with diplomacy with the US while in parliament and this flight on Artemenko’s dad’s company plane in July of 2013 happened right before he joined the parliament and right in the middle of the big “Hapsburg Group” diplomatic push with the US. So was Artemenko himself part of the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying effort too?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 17, 2018, 8:26 am
  11. Some supplemental info about Maidan & the snipers from Strategic Culture. https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/06/03/how-why-us-government-perpetrated-2014-coup-ukraine.html

    Posted by Susan Shpak | July 4, 2018, 1:57 am
  12. Since Manafort appears to have been surreptitiously maneuvering Ukraine toward the Western sphere & that means was to be by the EU Association Agreement, Manafort could not have been blind to the fact that the EUAA requires a common security and defense force (likely NATO), see comment on FTR #1008 for link. Thus Manafort was also trying to also sneak Ukraine into NATO through the EUAA, despite what he portrayed as being against it. He was a spook, thats what spooks do…lie.

    Posted by Susan Shpak | July 4, 2018, 2:07 am
  13. Amazing details, Pterrafractyl, my appaluse!

    Posted by Susan Shpak | July 7, 2018, 12:03 am
  14. Here’s a recent article that shed some new light on the origins of the ‘Ukrainian peace plan’ scheme developed by Andrii Artemenko, Felix Sater, and Michael Cohen.

    First, recall how we recently learned that former GOP congressman Curt Weldon was also reportedly involved with the development of this scheme and Weldon claimed to associates that Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg endorsed the scheme and was planning on financing the promotion of it. And recall how Artemenko and Weldon both spoke at a February 2016 event at Manor College about the situation in Ukraine. You can watch the video on YouTub, where Artementko talks about how he was among the first to take up an armed resistance against the Yanukovych government during the Maidan protests (~33:50-34:00 in the video). Curt Weldon’s talk starts at ~17:00, when he discusses his close ties to the Ukrainian diaspora and at ~26:00 he talks about the need for the US and international community to support Ukraine against Russian aggressionin the video.

    So, as we learn in the following article, it turns out that it was at the sidelines of that February 2016 event at Manor College where the ‘peace plan’ proposal was first hatched between Weldon and Artemenko. And there was another speaker at that event who was also reportedly part of the scheme: Alexander Rovt, a Ukrainian-American oligarch and New York real estate mogul.

    As we should expect at this point, Rovt’s involvement is being characterized as further evidence that this scheme was concocted by the Kremlin. And as we should also expect at this point, when you look into Rovt he appears to fall into the category of Ukrainian’s opposed to Kremlin influence in Ukraine. In fact, you can listen to the ~10 minutes talk he gave at Manor College and it’s largely about the need for the West to counter Kremlin propaganda and the need to isolate the Russian people the same way the West has done to Iran in order to bring Russia to the bargaining table. Rovt’s segment at the the Manor College event starts at ~40 minutes. This is the guy who is being cited as another link to the Kremlin.

    Also recall that, while Artemenko is suggesting February 2016 is now the origin of this peace plan, we’ve already heard from Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine and a political ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, who claims he gave some sort of peace plan material to Artemenko in 2015. And while Nalyvaichenko says he doesn’t back Artemenko’s peace plan, he did admit to submit a peace plan of his own to the US government.. And Artemenko has already admitted to discussing his peace plan with Tymoshenko. So we have strong indications that the Tymoshenko faction of Ukrainian politics was already trying to work out a ‘peace plan’ of some sort before this February 2016 event. But it’s still notable to learn when the Artemenko peace plan ‘officially’ took shape.

    So this all helps flesh out the timeline for the ‘peace plan’ scheme: It apparently got started in February of 2016 a Manor College event where Andrii Artemenko, Curt Weldon, and Alexander Rovt all spoke about the situation in Ukraine and the need to counter Russian aggression:

    McClatchy

    Inside the Ukraine peace plan in Mueller probe: More authors, earlier drafting than believed

    By Peter Stone
    Special Correspondent

    June 22, 2018 12:47 PM
    Updated June 22, 2018 01:38 PM

    A controversial peace plan for Ukraine and Russia that has drawn headlines and scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller was initially devised in early 2016 with significant input from an ex-congressman and a Ukrainian-American billionaire, according to a former Ukrainian legislator who promoted the proposal before Donald Trump’s election.

    Ex-Ukrainian legislator Andrii Artemenko told McClatchy in several recent interviews that the peace proposal, which some analysts believe had a pro-Moscow tilt, was hatched in February 2016 during side discussions at a Ukraine-focused conference at Manor College in suburban Philadelphia. Former Republican Rep. Curt Weldon and New York real estate mogul Alexander Rovt were involved, said Artemenko, who also participated.

    “It was called the Rovt-Weldon plan,” said Artemenko, noting that he had been friends with Weldon for almost a decade.

    Neither the roles of Weldon and Rovt in the early framing of the plan, nor the fact that it was being devised nearly a year before it was given to a Trump associate for delivery to the administration, have been reported previously. The new names add to a roster of individuals with close ties to Trump who have been identified in connection with the proposal: Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen; a former sometimes-real estate partner, Felix Sater, who was also an old friend of Cohen; and the president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition and is cooperating with the Mueller probe.

    Some observers say the new names, timing and other details raise questions about whether and to what extent Moscow or its allies influenced the proposal.

    Mueller and congressional investigators have been probing the Kremlin’s interference with the 2016 elections and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Some of the witnesses before a Mueller grand jury have been asked about the plan.

    The proposal would have lifted sanctions on Moscow if the Kremlin withdrew Russian forces from Eastern Ukraine; it also could have permitted Russia to keep control of Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has indicated interest in interviewing Weldon “because of his connections to both Russia and the Trump campaign,” said Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer. Weldon’s name also was included in a letter to Cohen from Feinstein’s office instructing him to save any communications with a long list of individuals, as the Atlantic first reported.

    Artemenko said Weldon “introduced me to high society in the U.S.,” including other lawmakers such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who is sometimes called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s best friend in Washington, GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

    Weldon and Rovt have each had links to Russian business interests.

    Weldon’s two decade career in Congress ended with the 2006 elections, weeks after the FBI raided his then-29-year-old daughter’s office and home. The Justice Department was probing his actions to support a Russian-managed oil and gas company that gave his daughter a $500,000 contract to do public relations work, Soon after the contract was signed, Weldon helped corral some 30 lawmakers for a dinner, which his daughter’s firm worked on too, to honor the chairman of the Russian company, Itera International Energy Co, and Weldon also intervened to help Itera when federal agencies canceled a contract with the company. Weldon was never charged.

    Rovt made his fortune initially in the fertilizer business, with some operations in Russia, but sold most of his foreign fertilizer assets in 2007 to another Ukrainian, oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who was a chief financier of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party before Yanukovych was ousted in 2014 and fled to Moscow. That party paid millions of dollars to yet another figure in the Trump-Russia investigation, lobbyist and political consultant Paul Manafort, who was a key Yanukovych adviser before he became Trump’s campaign chairman. Manafort has since been indicted by two Mueller grand juries on charges including money laundering, tax evasion, bank fraud and obstruction.

    NBC has reported that Rovt was an investor with Spruce Capital, a subsidiary of which made a $3.5 million dollar mortgage loan to a small company set up by Manafort right after he left his campaign perch in August 2016; that was a focus of federal investigators’ attention last year, prior to the multiple criminal charges that were filed against Manafort.

    Weldon didn’t respond to phone and written requests for comment. Rovt could not be reached for comment.

    Artemenko’s interviews with McClatchy provided other new details about his 2016 efforts to promote the plan in Russia and in the U.S. before Trump’s election.

    * Just a few weeks before the election, the Ukrainian said he started talking about the peace initiative with Sater, whom Artemenko had met earlier in 2016, during a visit to Sater’s Long Island home

    * Artemenko said he also met in Russia in 2016 with two members of the Russian Duma to brief them on the plan and that they “responded positively to the ideas.” The Ukrainian said he also discussed his plan with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

    Rep. Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and an outspoken critic of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, said in a statement that “The fact that this proposal was being considered a year in advance of its provision to the White House raises serious questions about how far along the discussion had progressed and the extent to which Russia was involved in the planning or consideration of the proposal.”

    Schiff also noted that investigators for the committee had long “been interested in the Trump Administration’s potential willingness to provide Russia a significant giveaway that might be at odds with the foreign policy position of the United States and our allies.”

    Similarly, some Russia experts say that the involvement of Weldon and Rovt and other new details provided by Artemenko suggest that the plan had links to Moscow.

    “There remain a lot of unanswered questions about who ultimately stood behind this so-called ‘peace plan,’” said Michael Carpenter, a top Russia policy analyst in the Pentagon under President Obama. “ Given the nature of the people involved in disseminating the proposal, it seems likely that its ultimate sponsors were either Kremlin surrogates or pro-Russia forces in Ukraine.”

    When the plan was first detailed in February 2017 by the New York Times the paper said it included a provision that called for a referendum to be held in Ukraine after Russian troops withdrew on whether Crimea, which Moscow had annexed, would be leased to Russia for 50 to 100 years. But Artemenko, who in 2016 was an obscure legislator allied with a right wing party in his country, and Sater told McClatchy separately that the plan included no such lease language. However, Artemenko said the plan did call for a referendum on whether Crimea should be part of Russia, Ukraine or independent.

    On June 8th, Artemenko testified for several hours before a Washington, D.C., grand jury tied to the Mueller investigation. The Ukrainian, who was ousted from his country’s legislature and lost his citizenship because of fallout from the initial revelation of the plan and its perceived pro-Moscow tilt, said that Cohen was a major focus of the grand jury questions he fielded.

    After his grand jury appearance, Artemenko added, he realized that Cohen “is a target” of interest to Mueller.

    A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment on questions about Cohen and Artemenko. Cohen did not reply to several written questions about his role with the peace plan.

    The peace plan is one of a few areas involving Cohen that are part of Mueller’s sprawling inquiry. Mueller also has been probing Cohen and Sater’s efforts to secure a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow, a project they worked on during the last months of 2015.

    Cohen is also facing close examination by federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District who have been looking into whether he committed crimes with some of his other ventures, including a once-lucrative taxi operation and the $130,000 payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence just before the 2016 election; Daniels says she had sex with Trump in 2006, but Trump has denied the affair.

    The Ukraine Russian peace initiative fizzled in early 2017 after the Times disclosed its existence along with a late January meeting in New York that Artemenko and Sater had with Cohen to persuade him to pass it along to a top administration official, like Flynn. Both Artemenko and Sater told McClatchy that Cohen agreed to do so.

    Artemenko “asked me if I could help introduce him to the administration,” Sater recalled in an interview, adding that Cohen promised he would “get the plan” to Flynn.

    Artemenko said he never gave Cohen anything in writing about the plan. But a few days after they met, Sater phoned the Ukrainian and read him a few sentences that contained the gist of it; Artemenko signed off on the language — which Sater described as “four bullet points” — for Cohen to give to Flynn.

    A few days later Artemenko said that in another call with Sater he was informed that “the package had been delivered” to Flynn.

    Cohen has offered shifting and contradictory statements about what he did with the document. Initially, he told the New York Times that he delivered the plan to Flynn’s office.

    But Cohen quickly changed his story, telling the Washington Post within days that he never gave it to Flynn or anyone in the White House. Then Cohen changed his account again in two subsequent interviews. He said at one point that he threw the envelope, unopened, in the trash.

    These contradictory accounts by Cohen have likely spurred Mueller’s team to look more closely at the plan, say former prosecutors.

    “Whenever a subject changes his story, especially multiple times, he draws a lot more interest from prosecutors, who will want to know what he’s hiding,” said former New York prosecutor Jaimie Nawaday who’s now a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren.

    With increasing scrutiny from Mueller’s grand jury and New York prosecutors, Cohen has lately signaled to associates that he expects to face charges soon — and that he may be willing to cut a deal and cooperate with prosecutors to avoid a potentially lengthy jail sentence.

    In recent days Cohen switched lawyers in a sign of his deepening legal troubles. Previously represented by veteran white collar lawyer Stephen Ryan, Cohen tapped Guy Petrillo, a former chief of the criminal division in the Southern District and a well established criminal defense lawyer.

    ———-

    “Inside the Ukraine peace plan in Mueller probe: More authors, earlier drafting than believed” by Peter Stone; McClatchy; 06/22/2018

    “Ex-Ukrainian legislator Andrii Artemenko told McClatchy in several recent interviews that the peace proposal, which some analysts believe had a pro-Moscow tilt, was hatched in February 2016 during side discussions at a Ukraine-focused conference at Manor College in suburban Philadelphia. Former Republican Rep. Curt Weldon and New York real estate mogul Alexander Rovt were involved, said Artemenko, who also participated.

    That’s where the Artkemenko/Sater/Cohen scheme was apparently initially hatched: at the February 2016 Manor College event. And it was Artemenko, Curt Weldon, and Alexander Rovt who hatched it. It was called the Rovt-Weldon plan according to Artemenko:


    “It was called the Rovt-Weldon plan,” said Artemenko, noting that he had been friends with Weldon for almost a decade.

    According to Artemenko, it was Weldon who introduced him to “high society in the US” :


    Artemenko said Weldon “introduced me to high society in the U.S.,” including other lawmakers such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who is sometimes called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s best friend in Washington, GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

    And note that while the article points out that Weldon introduced Artemenko to Dana Rohrabacher, who is known as Putin’s best friend in Washington, the other two congressional figures listed have very different pedigrees when it comes to relations with Russian Ukraine. Marcy Kaptor is consider one of Ukraine’s best friends in congress and Rob Portman backs the sale of lethal military hardware to Ukraine.

    But it’s Weldon and Rovt Russian business links that are pointed to as the key evidence of their Kremlin allegiance, as if that precludes him from eventually aligning with pro-Ukrainian interests years later (and ignores Weldon’s business ties to Ukrainian defense contractors):


    Weldon and Rovt have each had links to Russian business interests.

    Weldon’s two decade career in Congress ended with the 2006 elections, weeks after the FBI raided his then-29-year-old daughter’s office and home. The Justice Department was probing his actions to support a Russian-managed oil and gas company that gave his daughter a $500,000 contract to do public relations work, Soon after the contract was signed, Weldon helped corral some 30 lawmakers for a dinner, which his daughter’s firm worked on too, to honor the chairman of the Russian company, Itera International Energy Co, and Weldon also intervened to help Itera when federal agencies canceled a contract with the company. Weldon was never charged.

    And Rovt’s Russian business ties appear to largely be limited to the sale of his Ukrainian fertilizer business to Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch close to the Party of Regions and Viktor Yanukovych government. So it’s not even clear if Rovt has any substantial direct links to Russian businesses:


    Rovt made his fortune initially in the fertilizer business, with some operations in Russia, but sold most of his foreign fertilizer assets in 2007 to another Ukrainian, oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who was a chief financier of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party before Yanukovych was ousted in 2014 and fled to Moscow. That party paid millions of dollars to yet another figure in the Trump-Russia investigation, lobbyist and political consultant Paul Manafort, who was a key Yanukovych adviser before he became Trump’s campaign chairman. Manafort has since been indicted by two Mueller grand juries on charges including money laundering, tax evasion, bank fraud and obstruction.

    So that’s the evidence put forward that Weldon and Rovt are Kremlin operatives: Weldon had a potentially corrupt business relationship with a Russian-managed oil and gas company in 2006 and Rovt sold his fertilizer business to a Ukrainian oligarch close to Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. It’s not exactly compelling evidence.

    But Rovt does have one business interest that directly relates to the #TrumpRussia investigation: Rovt was an investor in Spruce Capital. And a subsidiary of Spruce Capital just happened to make a $3.5 million mortgage loan to a small company set up by Paul Manafort right after he left the Trump campaign in August of 2016:


    NBC has reported that Rovt was an investor with Spruce Capital, a subsidiary of which made a $3.5 million dollar mortgage loan to a small company set up by Manafort right after he left his campaign perch in August 2016; that was a focus of federal investigators’ attention last year, prior to the multiple criminal charges that were filed against Manafort.

    So Rovt appears to tie into the Trump campaign shenanigans in two key areas: he was there was the ‘peace plan’ idea was alleged conceived in February of 2016 and his financial firm made a suspicious loan to Paul Manafort in August of 2016 right after Manafort left the campaign.

    And in addition to Artemenko telling McClatchy that he discussed the plan with Yulia Tymoshenko and a pair of Russian MPs (discussed here), another new detail Artemenko told McClatchy in this interview is that it was just a few weeks before the 2016 election that Artemenko even started discussing the ‘peace plan’ with Felix Sater. If true, that would place Sater at a relatively late point in the development of this scheme. Of course, there’s little reason to assume that’s true given how much the story of this plan has changed, but it’s still worth noting:


    Artemenko’s interviews with McClatchy provided other new details about his 2016 efforts to promote the plan in Russia and in the U.S. before Trump’s election.

    * Just a few weeks before the election, the Ukrainian said he started talking about the peace initiative with Sater, whom Artemenko had met earlier in 2016, during a visit to Sater’s Long Island home

    * Artemenko said he also met in Russia in 2016 with two members of the Russian Duma to brief them on the plan and that they “responded positively to the ideas.” The Ukrainian said he also discussed his plan with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

    And it’s worth noting that both Artemenko and Sater told McClatchy that the plan never included the previously reported language that would have leased Crimea to Russia, although Artemenko now said the plan did included a referendum for Crimea on whether or not it should be part of Ukraine, Russia, or Independent:


    When the plan was first detailed in February 2017 by the New York Times the paper said it included a provision that called for a referendum to be held in Ukraine after Russian troops withdrew on whether Crimea, which Moscow had annexed, would be leased to Russia for 50 to 100 years. But Artemenko, who in 2016 was an obscure legislator allied with a right wing party in his country, and Sater told McClatchy separately that the plan included no such lease language. However, Artemenko said the plan did call for a referendum on whether Crimea should be part of Russia, Ukraine or independent.

    Regarding Artemenko’s new claims that the plan involved a referendum that would include the possibility of independence for Crimea, it would be interesting to learn if the Crimea population has strong desires for independence. If so, that could make such a referendum still potentially quite desirable for Russia’s opponents even if it didn’t result in Crimea being returned to Ukraine.

    Both Artemenko and Sater also give some additional details on how the plan was passed along to the Trump team: Artemenko asked Sater if Sater could help introduce him to the administration;


    The Ukraine Russian peace initiative fizzled in early 2017 after the Times disclosed its existence along with a late January meeting in New York that Artemenko and Sater had with Cohen to persuade him to pass it along to a top administration official, like Flynn. Both Artemenko and Sater told McClatchy that Cohen agreed to do so.

    Artemenko “asked me if I could help introduce him to the administration,” Sater recalled in an interview, adding that Cohen promised he would “get the plan” to Flynn.

    Recall that Artemenko was actually at the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland and the Trump inauguration in January of 2017 and was apparently getting introduced to “US high society” by Curt Weldon. So it’s notable that he apparently felt the need to approach Felix Sater about passing this plan along to the Trump team.

    And, as with so much of this case, the story of what Michael Cohen actually did with the proposal kept changing. Artemenko tells McClatchy that Sater informed him that “The package had been delivered” to Michael Flynn. And Cohen initially said he delivered the plan to Michael Flynn. But days later said he never gave it to Flynn or anyone and threw the plan in the trash:


    Artemenko said he never gave Cohen anything in writing about the plan. But a few days after they met, Sater phoned the Ukrainian and read him a few sentences that contained the gist of it; Artemenko signed off on the language — which Sater described as “four bullet points” — for Cohen to give to Flynn.

    A few days later Artemenko said that in another call with Sater he was informed that “the package had been delivered” to Flynn.

    Cohen has offered shifting and contradictory statements about what he did with the document. Initially, he told the New York Times that he delivered the plan to Flynn’s office.

    But Cohen quickly changed his story, telling the Washington Post within days that he never gave it to Flynn or anyone in the White House. Then Cohen changed his account again in two subsequent interviews. He said at one point that he threw the envelope, unopened, in the trash.

    These contradictory accounts by Cohen have likely spurred Mueller’s team to look more closely at the plan, say former prosecutors.

    “Whenever a subject changes his story, especially multiple times, he draws a lot more interest from prosecutors, who will want to know what he’s hiding,” said former New York prosecutor Jaimie Nawaday who’s now a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren.

    So that’s the update from McClatchy a few weeks ago that introduce Alexander Rovt as a key figure behind the ‘peace plan’ as well as a figure possibly involved with paying off Paul Manafort.

    But this wasn’t the first time Rovt’s name has come up in all this. Those suspicious payouts to Manafort were reported on over a year ago. As the following article describes, Manafort set up a shell company on the day he stepped down from the Trump campaign in August of 2016 and that shell company ended up receiving $13 million in loans from two different businesses. One of those business was Rovt’s Spruce Capital when lent to Manafort in September of 2016. The second business, Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, focuses on affordable mortgages for military veterans and is headed by Stephen M. Calk, a senior Trump economic adviser at the time and gave Manafort a loan shortly after Trump won the election.

    Interestingly, while Rovt made a last minute $10,000 donation to the Trump campaign on Election Day (which of which was returned because it exceeded the $2,700 maximum), prior to that Rovt had donated almost exclusively to Democrats, including $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in February 2016. So during the same month that Rovt attended that Manor College event where he talked about the need to counter Russian aggression and the ‘peace plan’ was secretly concocted, he also donated the maximum amount to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It’s another data point highlighting how Rovt doesn’t actually fit the profile of a pro-Kremlin oligarch.

    And as the article points out, Rovt’s investment partner in Spruce Capital, Joshua Crane, had previously been involved in two Trump projects, including a Trump International Hotel & Tower in Waikiki. So Spruce Capital has ties to Ukraine (and, in turn, potential Manafort) via Rovt, but also direct ties to the Trump organization via Joshua Crane, making the motive for this loan to Manafort extra obscure:

    The New York Times

    After Campaign Exit, Manafort Borrowed From Businesses With Trump Ties

    By Mike McIntire
    April 12, 2017

    Aug. 19 was an eventful day for Paul Manafort.

    That morning, he stepped down from guiding Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, after a brief tenure during which Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, Democrats’ emails were hacked and the campaign’s contacts with Russia came under scrutiny. Dogged by revelations about past financial dealings in Ukraine, Mr. Manafort retreated from public view.

    But behind the scenes, he was busy with other matters. Papers were recorded that same day creating a shell company controlled by Mr. Manafort that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser. They were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort and his wife.

    The purpose of the loans is unstated in public records, although at least some of them appear to be part of an effort by Mr. Manafort to stave off a personal financial crisis stemming from failed investments with his son-in-law.

    The transactions raise a number of questions, including whether Mr. Manafort’s decision to turn to Trump-connected lenders was related to his role in the campaign, where he had agreed to serve for free.

    They also shine a light on the rich real estate portfolio that Mr. Manafort acquired during and after the years he worked in Ukraine. Mr. Manafort, often using shell companies, invested millions of dollars in various properties, including apartments and condos in New York, homes in Florida and Virginia and luxury houses in Los Angeles.

    Mr. Manafort’s ties to Ukraine and Russia have come under scrutiny as federal officials investigate Russian meddling in the American presidential election. Investigators are known to have examined aspects of his finances, including bank accounts he had in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus; there is no indication his recent loans are part of the inquiry.

    The source of the money for the real estate purchases is not clear, and Mr. Manafort never filed lobbying registrations for his work in Ukraine that would have disclosed his compensation. Such registrations are necessary for activities that involve influencing policy and public opinion in the United States, and some of Mr. Manafort’s Ukraine work appeared to fall into that category. Anti-corruption officials in Ukraine say $12.7 million in “off the books” cash payments were earmarked for him in a handwritten ledger kept by the political party of the deposed strongman Viktor F. Yanukovych.

    Last month, a Ukrainian lawmaker released documents that appeared to corroborate one of the ledger entries, and on Wednesday The Associated Press reported confirmation of another payment. The two payments in 2007 and 2009, totaling $1.2 million, were routed through shell companies in Belize to a bank account in Virginia belonging to Mr. Manafort’s consulting firm.

    Mr. Manafort has previously claimed the ledger is a fake. On Wednesday, he issued a statement that did not dispute the ledger entries, but suggested that any payments he received were legal because they were not made in cash.

    “Mr. Manafort has always denied that he ever received any cash payments for his work and has consistently maintained that he received all of his payments, for services rendered, through wire transfers conducted through the international banking system,” the statement said.

    Separately on Wednesday, a spokesman for Mr. Manafort said he had “received formal guidance recently from the authorities” on the need to register, retroactively, for lobbying work in Ukraine, and was “taking appropriate steps in response.” Mr. Manafort was advised last week that he should file the belated registration within 30 days to come into compliance with the law, according to a person with direct knowledge of conversations between Mr. Manafort’s lawyers and the Justice Department.

    One of Mr. Manafort’s recent loans, previously unreported, was for $3.5 million in September from the private lending unit of Spruce Capital, a small New York investment firm that has a Ukrainian connection through the billionaire Alexander Rovt. An American citizen who made his fortune in the privatization of the fertilizer industry in post-Soviet Ukraine and has long done business in that part of the world, Mr. Rovt is a financial backer of Spruce, whose co-founder Joshua Crane has been a developer of Trump hotel projects.

    Mr. Crane did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Rovt, who donated $10,000 to Mr. Trump’s campaign on Election Day — the campaign refunded most of it because it was over the legal maximum of $2,700 — said he had never met Mr. Manafort and was not involved in the loan to him. “I did not recommend him or put the parties together,” Mr. Rovt said in an email provided by his lawyer.

    Mr. Manafort declined to answer specific questions about any of his loans, other than to say that they “are personal and all reflect arm’s-length transactions at or above market rates.” He derided the interest that his finances had generated in the news media and among do-it-yourself researchers, some of whom have even set up a website that dissects his loans.

    A Trail of Scandal

    Scandal has trailed Mr. Manafort since his earliest work as an international lobbyist and consultant in the 1980s, when he testified before Congress about influence peddling to win federal housing contracts and was linked to $10 million in cash that a confidant of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos claimed was delivered to Mr. Manafort in a suitcase. In the 1990s, Mr. Manafort’s work for clients such as the Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was cited in a human rights watchdog report, “The Torturers’ Lobby,” which examined Washington consultants who catered to brutal regimes.

    Mr. Manafort went to work for Mr. Yanukovych and his Russian-backed Party of Regions in the mid-2000s, and during that time also entered into business deals with two oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska of Russia and Dmytro Firtash of Ukraine. Both deals, which were ultimately unsuccessful, involved the use of murky offshore companies and were tainted by allegations that cronies of Mr. Yanukovych’s schemed to funnel assets out of Ukraine.

    The transaction with Mr. Deripaska, a billionaire industrialist close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, involved the attempted purchase of a Ukrainian cable telecommunications business using $18.9 million that Mr. Deripaska invested in a Cayman Islands partnership managed by Mr. Manafort. The cable business was controlled by offshore shell companies that Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators said were used by Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle to loot public assets.

    And last summer, the Ukrainian investigators announced the discovery of the handwritten ledger, said to have been kept in the offices of Mr. Yanukovych’s political party before he was ousted in 2014, which showed the $12.7 million in payments designated for Mr. Manafort.

    The nature of Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine appeared to concern his family, according to text messages belonging to one of his adult daughters, Andrea, which were hacked last year and posted on a website used by Ukrainian hackers. The thousands of messages span from 2012 to 2016 and include references to millions of dollars Mr. Manafort apparently transferred to his two daughters.

    In one text written in 2015, Ms. Manafort, a lawyer, called her father’s activities in Ukraine “legally questionable,” and in a separate exchange with her sister, Jessica, she worried that cash he gave them was tainted by the violent response to the uprising that ultimately led to the downfall of Mr. Manafort’s client, Mr. Yanukovych.

    “Don’t fool yourself,” Ms. Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”

    In addition to the money he gave his daughters, Mr. Manafort also began acquiring a number of real estate assets during the years he worked in Ukraine, several of them costing millions of dollars and bought with cash. Among them is an apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, bought in 2006 for $3.7 million, and a Brooklyn brownstone bought in 2012 for $3 million.

    Being able to cite his Trump Tower address came in handy when he pitched his services to Mr. Trump’s campaign early in 2016. By then, Mr. Manafort had been out of American politics for many years, but he expressed a desire to get back in the game and offered to work free, suggesting that he did not need the money.

    Soon, however, he was embarking on a borrowing spree, using his many properties as collateral, including a summer home in the Hamptons valued at more than $11 million. The transactions began with the filing of papers that created the shell company, Summerbreeze L.L.C., on Aug. 19 as Mr. Manafort’s resignation as campaign chairman was being announced. Shortly thereafter, Summerbreeze obtained the $3.5 million loan from the Spruce Capital unit.

    In November, after Mr. Trump won the presidential election, Summerbreeze received a second loan, for $9.5 million, from Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, which focuses on affordable mortgages for military veterans and is headed by Stephen M. Calk, a senior economic adviser to Mr. Trump at the time. The collateral for the loan included Mr. Manafort’s Hamptons home and other assets.

    In addition to the loans taken out on the Hamptons house, Mr. Manafort has recently obtained mortgages on another property. Those loans, totaling $6.6 million, were obtained in January on a brownstone in Brooklyn and also came from Federal Savings Bank in Chicago.

    Soured Investments

    Mr. Manafort declined to explain the purpose of his loans. But a review of public records suggests at least some of them are connected to efforts to salvage investments he made with Jessica Manafort’s husband, Jeffrey Yohai, whose real estate business filed for bankruptcy in December. Mr. Yohai faces a lawsuit by another co-investor who claims he exploited his connections to Mr. Manafort “to meet numerous public figures and celebrities” and solicit investments from them; Mr. Yohai denies the accusations.

    In an affidavit filed in the bankruptcy case, Mr. Manafort said he had decided to “assist with additional funding to protect my existing investments,” totaling more than $4 million, in several luxury properties in California owned by limited liability companies controlled by Mr. Yohai.

    Why Mr. Manafort opted to go to Spruce Capital and the Chicago bank for the loans is unclear.

    For Federal Savings, Mr. Manafort’s loans amount to about 5.4 percent of the bank’s total assets. Mr. Calk did not respond to messages seeking comment, and a spokeswoman for Federal Savings said it would not discuss its customers’ business.

    At Spruce Capital, the loan secured by the Hamptons house appeared to be somewhat unusual. Of the 40 transactions listed under “recent activities” on the investment group’s lending unit website, it was the only one outside of New York City and the sole loan involving a single-family house. Mr. Crane, the co-founder of Spruce Capital, had previously been involved in two Trump projects, including a Trump International Hotel & Tower in Waikiki.

    Mr. Rovt, who has partnered with Mr. Crane’s firm on several major real estate investments in New York and is an investor in its lending business, is active in the Ukrainian-American community. Last year, he took part in a small panel discussion on Ukrainian relations at Manor College in Pennsylvania, where he shared the stage with Andrii V. Artemenko, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament.

    The New York Times reported in February that Mr. Artemenko worked behind the scenes with Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, and Felix H. Sater, a former business associate of Mr. Trump’s, to relay a proposed Ukrainian-Russian peace plan to the White House. Mr. Rovt, through his lawyer, said that he knew Mr. Artemenko, but that he was “not involved in any peace proposal.”

    As for his excessive last-minute donation to Mr. Trump in November, it stands out, given that Mr. Rovt had previously donated almost exclusively to Democrats during the election —– including $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in February 2016. Mr. Rovt said the reason was simple: Friends had been encouraging him to support the Trump campaign.

    “So,” he said, “I finally did.”

    ———-

    “After Campaign Exit, Manafort Borrowed From Businesses With Trump Ties” by Mike McIntire; The New York Times; 04/12/2017

    “But behind the scenes, he was busy with other matters. Papers were recorded that same day creating a shell company controlled by Mr. Manafort that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser. They were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort and his wife.”

    So on the same day Manafort steps down as chairman of Trump’s campaign, he sets up a shell company that will soon receive $13 million in loans from Spruce Capital and Federal Savings Bank of Chicago. It’s certainly interesting timing, especially given the fact that Manafort was an unpaid campaign manager:


    The purpose of the loans is unstated in public records, although at least some of them appear to be part of an effort by Mr. Manafort to stave off a personal financial crisis stemming from failed investments with his son-in-law.

    The transactions raise a number of questions, including whether Mr. Manafort’s decision to turn to Trump-connected lenders was related to his role in the campaign, where he had agreed to serve for free.

    And since the collateral for these loans were Manafort’s substantial real estate portfolio, the whole thing highlights the importance real estate was to Manafort’s savings. He clearly had a taste for real estate given how many properties he owned:


    They also shine a light on the rich real estate portfolio that Mr. Manafort acquired during and after the years he worked in Ukraine. Mr. Manafort, often using shell companies, invested millions of dollars in various properties, including apartments and condos in New York, homes in Florida and Virginia and luxury houses in Los Angeles.

    Mr. Manafort’s ties to Ukraine and Russia have come under scrutiny as federal officials investigate Russian meddling in the American presidential election. Investigators are known to have examined aspects of his finances, including bank accounts he had in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus; there is no indication his recent loans are part of the inquiry.

    The source of the money for the real estate purchases is not clear, and Mr. Manafort never filed lobbying registrations for his work in Ukraine that would have disclosed his compensation. Such registrations are necessary for activities that involve influencing policy and public opinion in the United States, and some of Mr. Manafort’s Ukraine work appeared to fall into that category. Anti-corruption officials in Ukraine say $12.7 million in “off the books” cash payments were earmarked for him in a handwritten ledger kept by the political party of the deposed strongman Viktor F. Yanukovych.

    In addition to the money he gave his daughters, Mr. Manafort also began acquiring a number of real estate assets during the years he worked in Ukraine, several of them costing millions of dollars and bought with cash. Among them is an apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, bought in 2006 for $3.7 million, and a Brooklyn brownstone bought in 2012 for $3 million.

    Being able to cite his Trump Tower address came in handy when he pitched his services to Mr. Trump’s campaign early in 2016. By then, Mr. Manafort had been out of American politics for many years, but he expressed a desire to get back in the game and offered to work free, suggesting that he did not need the money.

    Soon, however, he was embarking on a borrowing spree, using his many properties as collateral, including a summer home in the Hamptons valued at more than $11 million. The transactions began with the filing of papers that created the shell company, Summerbreeze L.L.C., on Aug. 19 as Mr. Manafort’s resignation as campaign chairman was being announced. Shortly thereafter, Summerbreeze obtained the $3.5 million loan from the Spruce Capital unit.

    In November, after Mr. Trump won the presidential election, Summerbreeze received a second loan, for $9.5 million, from Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, which focuses on affordable mortgages for military veterans and is headed by Stephen M. Calk, a senior economic adviser to Mr. Trump at the time. The collateral for the loan included Mr. Manafort’s Hamptons home and other assets.

    In addition to the loans taken out on the Hamptons house, Mr. Manafort has recently obtained mortgages on another property. Those loans, totaling $6.6 million, were obtained in January on a brownstone in Brooklyn and also came from Federal Savings Bank in Chicago.

    And because real estate lends itself to all sorts of possible money laundering activities, like the records of alleged secret payments Manafort received found in the Ukrainian “black ledger”, there’s going to be a high level of investigator interest in any suspicious activity involving Paul Manafort’s real estate:


    Last month, a Ukrainian lawmaker released documents that appeared to corroborate one of the ledger entries, and on Wednesday The Associated Press reported confirmation of another payment. The two payments in 2007 and 2009, totaling $1.2 million, were routed through shell companies in Belize to a bank account in Virginia belonging to Mr. Manafort’s consulting firm.

    Mr. Manafort has previously claimed the ledger is a fake. On Wednesday, he issued a statement that did not dispute the ledger entries, but suggested that any payments he received were legal because they were not made in cash.

    “Mr. Manafort has always denied that he ever received any cash payments for his work and has consistently maintained that he received all of his payments, for services rendered, through wire transfers conducted through the international banking system,” the statement said.

    When it comes to Spruce Capital’s $3.5 million loan to Manafort in September of 2016, the fact that Rovt is a Ukrainian has clearly drawn the interest of investigators. But the fact that Rovt’s partner in Spruce, Joshua Crane, has been a developer of Trump hotel projects should also be kept in mind when trying to determine which ties helped prompt this unusual loan to Manafort:


    One of Mr. Manafort’s recent loans, previously unreported, was for $3.5 million in September from the private lending unit of Spruce Capital, a small New York investment firm that has a Ukrainian connection through the billionaire Alexander Rovt. An American citizen who made his fortune in the privatization of the fertilizer industry in post-Soviet Ukraine and has long done business in that part of the world, Mr. Rovt is a financial backer of Spruce, whose co-founder Joshua Crane has been a developer of Trump hotel projects.

    Mr. Manafort declined to answer specific questions about any of his loans, other than to say that they “are personal and all reflect arm’s-length transactions at or above market rates.” He derided the interest that his finances had generated in the news media and among do-it-yourself researchers, some of whom have even set up a website that dissects his loans.

    Manafort’s explanation for the loans is that he deicded to “assist with additional funding to protect my existing investments,” totaling more than $4 million, in several luxury properties in California owned by limited liability companies controlled by” his son-on-law, Jeffrey Yohai. But there isn’t really an explanation of why those two companies, Spruce Capital, and Federal Savings, were the companies Manafort went to for those loans:


    Soured Investments

    Mr. Manafort declined to explain the purpose of his loans. But a review of public records suggests at least some of them are connected to efforts to salvage investments he made with Jessica Manafort’s husband, Jeffrey Yohai, whose real estate business filed for bankruptcy in December. Mr. Yohai faces a lawsuit by another co-investor who claims he exploited his connections to Mr. Manafort “to meet numerous public figures and celebrities” and solicit investments from them; Mr. Yohai denies the accusations.

    In an affidavit filed in the bankruptcy case, Mr. Manafort said he had decided to “assist with additional funding to protect my existing investments,” totaling more than $4 million, in several luxury properties in California owned by limited liability companies controlled by Mr. Yohai.

    Why Mr. Manafort opted to go to Spruce Capital and the Chicago bank for the loans is unclear.

    For Federal Savings, Mr. Manafort’s loans amount to about 5.4 percent of the bank’s total assets. Mr. Calk did not respond to messages seeking comment, and a spokeswoman for Federal Savings said it would not discuss its customers’ business.

    At Spruce Capital, the loan secured by the Hamptons house appeared to be somewhat unusual. Of the 40 transactions listed under “recent activities” on the investment group’s lending unit website, it was the only one outside of New York City and the sole loan involving a single-family house. Mr. Crane, the co-founder of Spruce Capital, had previously been involved in two Trump projects, including a Trump International Hotel & Tower in Waikiki.

    And that’s all part of why the suspicion involving Manafort’s finances overlap with the suspicions involving the Ukrainian ‘peace plan’: one of the developers of the ‘peace plan’, Alexander Rovt, also happens to be a partner in one of the companies that make an anomalous loan to Manafort.

    And while some of those suspicions are understandable and reasonable, those suspicions are also rooted, in part, in a reflexie assumption that Rovt move be some sort of Kremlin dupe, despite all the signs pointing in the other direction. So it’s worth noting that, while Rovt made a $10,000 donation to the Trump campaign on Election Day (most of which had to be returned because it exceeded the $2,700 maximum limit), Rovt had previously almost exclusively donated to Democrats, including $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in February of 2016, the same month of the Manor College Ukraine event:


    Mr. Crane did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Rovt, who donated $10,000 to Mr. Trump’s campaign on Election Day — the campaign refunded most of it because it was over the legal maximum of $2,700 — said he had never met Mr. Manafort and was not involved in the loan to him. “I did not recommend him or put the parties together,” Mr. Rovt said in an email provided by his lawyer.

    Mr. Rovt, who has partnered with Mr. Crane’s firm on several major real estate investments in New York and is an investor in its lending business, is active in the Ukrainian-American community. Last year, he took part in a small panel discussion on Ukrainian relations at Manor College in Pennsylvania, where he shared the stage with Andrii V. Artemenko, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament.

    The New York Times reported in February that Mr. Artemenko worked behind the scenes with Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, and Felix H. Sater, a former business associate of Mr. Trump’s, to relay a proposed Ukrainian-Russian peace plan to the White House. Mr. Rovt, through his lawyer, said that he knew Mr. Artemenko, but that he was “not involved in any peace proposal.”

    As for his excessive last-minute donation to Mr. Trump in November, it stands out, given that Mr. Rovt had previously donated almost exclusively to Democrats during the election —– including $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in February 2016. Mr. Rovt said the reason was simple: Friends had been encouraging him to support the Trump campaign.

    “So,” he said, “I finally did.”

    And note how Rovt is described as “active in the Ukrainian-American community”. It will be interesting to see what more can be learned about Rovt’s Ukrainian-American community activities. Because if someone is described as being active in the Ukrainian-American community that strongly implied they are active in decrying Russia and the Kremlin, generally speaking these days. The two go hand in hand since 2014. And that’s clearly the case given his attendance at the Manor College event where he railed about how Ukraine needed to get better at countering Russian propaganda.

    So that’s what we know at this point about the latest figure to be introduced into the #TrumpRussia investigation: Alexander Rovt, a Ukrainian oligarch who appears to have helped conceived the ‘peace plan’ at an event where he called on the West to take a much stronger stance against Russia. Surprise!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2018, 4:24 pm

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