Putin’s broker investigated for arming Ukraine rebel groups

Roger Boyes
The Times (London) | July 26, 2014

A secretive oligarch with links to a group of religious patriots influencing Vladimir Putin is being investigated by the Kiev authorities for allegedly bankrolling "illegal armed groups" in eastern Ukraine.

The investigation into the Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev could shed light into how the Kremlin became involved with the separatists.

The shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine has prompted the West to come up with new, tougher sanctions that address the links between Russia and the breakaway gunmen on the ground.

So far, Mr Malofeev, 40, is not on any sanctions list and he said in an interview yesterday that he was merely helping refugees from the fighting, not the irregular soldiers. "I’m not sending any money there," he said. "I’m only sending goods – water, food, and medicine – and nothing that could be used for (the military effort)." The Ukrainian investigation, he said, was "ridiculous".

Even so, two key figures in the insurgency used to be his employees. One, Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk people’s republic, used to work as the oligarch’s public relations adviser. A high-profile fighter, Igor Girkin – who goes by the name of Strelkov, or "shooter" – used to be on his payroll. Mr Malofeev, an art college and law graduate, is the chairman and founder of the investment fund Marshall Capital, which has interests in telecommunications, real estate, media and agriculture.

Last November, he sold a stake in Rostelecom, a market leader in broadband and pay-TV, for about $700 million (£410 million). It was at a time when tensions were rising in Ukraine and President Putin was worried that the West was trying to force a change of regime. In January, the businessman befriended Sergei Aksyonov, the new prime minister of Crimea.

 

Ukraine says intercepted phone call between One Russia official, rebel leader

Text of report by Ukrainian commercial, news-based 5 Kanal TV on 25 July

[Presenter] Another piece of evidence of the Russian political leadership’s involvement in the escalation of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has been made available by the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU].

It posted online a phone conversation between one of the leaders of the so-called DPR [self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic], Aleksandr Boroday, and the deputy secretary of the council of Russia’s ruling One Russia party, Aleksey Chesnakov.

During the conversation, the terrorist is complaining about the improper instructions coming from Moscow and asking for money. Chesnakov is promises him financial support.

[Boroday, in Russian] The biggest problem I have is that we are about to run out of money. The 150 [presumably million hryvnyas] I took along are almost gone, because I have given 50 [presumably million hryvnyas] to Zakhar, a million hryvnyas [around 85,000 dollars] to Igor [Strelkov aka Girkin], plus all the other expenses. The money is ready, but it will arrive only in a couple of weeks’ time. Do you see what I mean?

[Chesnakov, in Russian] The money will arrive.

[Boroday] If the money does arrive in two weeks, then the situation will remain the same. Do you understand? If nothing changes from the military perspective, the situation will not remain the same.

[Chesnakov] If it does not remain the same, it will not. Sasha [Boroday], please do not tell me this bullshit. You know that we have agreed on this 180, so go ahead and take it. The rest should be sorted out by you somehow. If there is no inflow [of money], we will arrange it again through the same channel.

Source: 5 Kanal TV, Kiev, in Ukrainian 1400 gmt 25 Jul 14

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