Three Points on Russia
March 23, 2017
1. Rick Gates, who was Paul Manafort’s partner in pro-Kremlin work and shares business ties to Putin friend Oleg Deripaska, remains a key player in Trump world and was at the White House as recently as last week.
“Even as Trump officials downplay Manafort’s role, his decade-long business associate Rick Gates remains entrenched in the president’s operation. Gates is one of four people leading a Trump-blessed group that defends the president’s agenda. As recently as last week, he was at the White House to meet with officials as part of that work. Through Manafort, Gates is tied to many of the same business titans from Ukraine and Russia, including Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” [Washington Post, 3/22/17]
2. In the last 48 hours, a prominent Putin critic was shot to death in Kiev, and another threat to the Kremlin was thrown from his balcony in Moscow. In the past, incidents like these have drawn strong condemnations from the U.S. government. This White House has been silent.
“A former Russian member of parliament who defected to Ukraine and began sharply criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin was gunned down Thursday in downtown Kiev in an apparent contract killing. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the murder of Denis Voronenkov, a former member of Russia’s Communist Party who fled to Kiev in October 2016, an act of state terrorism by Russia.” [Washington Post, 3/23/17]
“Russian media say Nikolai Gorokhov fell from the fourth floor when a rope snapped as he and others tried to lift a bathtub into his house near Moscow. He was flown to hospital by helicopter, a medical source was quoted as saying. However, British businessman Bill Browder, for whom Mr Magnitsky worked, said he had been ‘thrown…’ Mr Gorokhov was due to appear in an appeals court in Moscow on Wednesday to contest its refusal to investigate allegations of organised crime.” [BBC, 3/22/17]
3. There are new questions about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ ties to Russia and his involvement in a deal with a close Putin ally who was under U.S. and E.U. sanctions.
“Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration’s new commerce secretary, presided over a deal with a Russian businessman with ties to Vladimir Putin while serving in his previous role as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus. The transaction raises questions about Ross’s tenure at the Cypriot bank and his ties to politically connected Russian oligarchs…While he served as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, the bank’s Russia-based businesses were sold to a Russian banker and consultant, Artem Avetisyan, who had ties to both the Russian president and Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. At the time, Sberbank was under US and EU sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Avetisyan had earlier been selected by Putin to head a new business branch of the Russian president’s strategic initiative agency, which was tasked with improving business and government ties.” [The Guardian, 3/23/17]