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Is Oleg Deripaska the missing link in the Trump-Russia investigation?
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The Russian oligarch could face greater scrutiny after disclosure that Paul Manafort discussed Ukraine peace plan with associate
Tue 29 Jan 2019 02.00 ESTLast modified on Tue 29 Jan 2019 09.40 EST
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A recent disclosure that Trump’s campaign chairman and a key Russian business associate discussed a Ukraine peace plan in mid-2016 could signal more scrutiny of a powerful Russian oligarch by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, former prosecutors and intelligence officials told the Guardian.
The timing of the talks between Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, a veteran political consultant, and Konstantin Kilimnik, his longtime aide who allegedly had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016, occurred in New York on 2 August.
The meeting came just days after Kilimnik met in Moscow with Oleg Deripaska, a powerful oligarch and close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Deripaska had been a major client of Manafort but had sued him over a failed business deal in Ukraine and was seeking to recoup almost $25m.
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The Trump administration announced late last year it intended to lift sanctions on Deripaska’s companies, despite strong opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress. The treasury department had imposed the sanctions on Deripaska and several of his companies in tandem with seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies they owned or controlled, and 17 Russian government officials, for “malign activity” which included “attempting to subvert western democracies, and malicious cyber-activities”.
The talks in New York, revealed in a recent court filing from Mueller’s office, came soon after Kilimnik emailed Manafort that he needed to brief him on his Deripaska meeting. Kilimnik, who worked for a decade with Manafort when he was a political consultant making tens of millions representing Deripaska and pro-Moscow Ukrainian political parties, emailed Manafort in late July that he had just spent hours with the man “who gave you your biggest jar of black caviar several years ago”, referring to Deripaska.
Kilimnik’s email to Manafort said that Deripaska asked him to convey “several important messages from him to you”.
Mueller’s new mid-January court filing was the first evidence that Manafort and Kilimnik had talked about Ukraine peace plans. The filing also stated they discussed such proposals on “more than one occasion”.
The ex-officials say the Mueller filing may signal a growing interest in Deripaska’s involvement with Manafort and Kilimnik.
“This raises the question as to whether Mueller has an ongoing interest in Deripaska in his investigation,” said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in money laundering enforcement.
Some pro-Moscow peace plans for Ukraine have been “proxies” for ending the painful sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 after it invaded eastern Ukraine and Crimea, a major Kremlin goal, Zeldin noted.
Similarly, Nick Akerman, a former assistant Watergate prosecutor, said: “It seems quite likely that Mueller would be focused on Deripaska too as he examines Manafort and Kilimnik.”
Intelligence veterans say Kremlin linkages could have been at play in the back-to-back talks in Moscow and New York.
“Deripaska is a key lieutenant and a significant oligarch in Putin’s oligarch system,” said Steven Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russia operations.
“Deripaska would get his marching orders from the Kremlin about what Russia wanted, including lifting of sanctions and a resolution of the situation in Ukraine that favored Russia,” Hall said. “It seems likely the chain of communication would have been Putin to Deripaska to Kilimnik to Manafort.”
“The Manafort connection to Deripaska is essential,” Hall added. “I think people really need to focus on the Manafort-Deripaska relationship. It’s essentially a Trump-Putin connection.”
Mueller’s revelation about the initial peace plan chat came in a heavily redacted filing documenting five alleged lies by Manafort in violation of a plea agreement to cooperate fully, after he had been convicted on multiple charges including bank and tax fraud and pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts.
A Manafort spokesperson declined comment.
Neither Kilimnik nor Deripaska responded to emails seeking comment.
During the 2016 election season when the FBI began looking into Russian meddling Deripaska was at least briefly turned to for help.
In September 2016 during a Deripaska trip to New York, FBI agents paid a surprise visit on the oligarch in an unsuccessful effort to get him to cooperate in their inquiries into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, the New York Times reported.
Soon after Trump hired Manafort – originally to help secure the delegates to grab the GOP presidential nomination – the latter emailed Kilimnik to ensure that Deripaska was in the loop about Manafort’s role with the campaign.
In emails first reported by the Washington Post, Manafort proposed giving Deripaska “private briefings” on the Trump campaign, and told Kilimnik to pass the idea on to the oligarch, apparently an effort to win his favor and settle the lawsuit that Deripaska had brought against him. Manafort, Kilimnik and Deripaska have said no formal proposal was ever made and nothing came of the idea.
In his July emails to Manafort, which the Atlantic first reported, Kilimnik said he told Deripaska he had to “run it by you first”, but could come quickly “provided that he buys me a ticket”. Kilimnik called Deripaska’s ideas about his country’s future “quite interesting”.
Manafort replied that Tuesday 2 August would work, and the two men reportedly met that day at the Grand Havana Room, a cigar bar in midtown Manhattan.
Kilimnik, an elusive 48-year-old with a background of training at a military intelligence school who now lives in Moscow after years in Kiev, was charged, along with Manafort, in 2018 by Mueller with witness tampering. Another Kilimnik business partner has been charged with illegally funneling $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch into Trump’s inauguration fund.
Last year, the special counsel also stated in a court document that Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence during 2016, an allegation that Kilimnik has denied.
THEGUARDIAN.COM
The Russian oligarch could face greater scrutiny after disclosure that Paul Manafort discussed Ukraine peace plan with associate


Is Oleg Deripaska the missing link in the Trump-Russia investigation? | World news |
Deripaska and Putin - Google Search |
US cites stories Oleg Deripaska helped Vladimir Putin launder money |
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