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Kirill Dmitriev. Photo credit: Kremlin.ru

What happened

Special counsel Robert Mueller, responsible for investigating Russian interference in the U.S.
election, has gathered evidence that the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s campaign team attempted to
create an unofficial communications channel in January 2017, just before President Trump’s
inauguration, the Washington Post reported.

The Russian side was represented by the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill
Dmitriev, whose wife serves as a deputy to Katerina Tikhonova. Ms Tikhonova has long been
believed to be Vladimir Putin’s daughter. The American side was represented by Trump supporter
and founder of the infamous private military company, Blackwater, Erik Prince. The meeting
between Dmitriev and Prince took place in the Seychelles in January 2017.

The Bell: what we know about Dmitriev

RDIF, led by Dmitriev, is a $10 billion sovereign investment fund, funded from the Russian
government budget. The fund was initially created as a subsidiary of VEB (Vnesheconombank) and
together with VEB was hit with U.S. sanctions in 2015. In 2016, RDIF was handed over to the Federal
Agency for State Property Management, but this did not lead to the removal of sanctions against the
fund.

In addition to his official role with the fund, Kirill Dmitriev also has a personal connection to Vladimir
Putin’s inner circle. Dmitriev’s wife, Natalia Popova, was a university classmate of Katerina
Tikhonova, believed to be Vladimir Putin’s daughter. Popova works as Tikhonova’s deputy at
the Innopraktika fund.

  • In 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Tikhonova was spotted together with Popova and
    Dmitriev.
  • Popova told RBC that she and Tikhonova studied together at Moscow State University, and that after
    Innopraktika was founded, Tikhonova “called on her to serve.”
  • Dmitriev serves on Innopraktika’s board of trustees and also served on Sibur’s board of directors.
    Sibur is co-owned by Tikhonova’s ex-husband, Kirill Shamalov, and RDIF invested in Sibur projects.

Meeting in the Seychelles

The Washington Post first reported in April 2017 that Erik Prince, as an unofficial representative of
Trump’s team, met in January 2017 in the Seychelles with “a Russian bureaucrat close to Vladimir
Putin”.

  • The meeting was arranged by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
    The crown prince is a frequent visitor to the Kremlin, and Kirill Dmitriev was present during the
    crown prince’s last meeting with Vladimir Putin. Al-Nahyan runs Abu Dhabi’s sovereign investment fund, Mubadala, with whom RDIF has a joint $2 billion fund. The partners invest in Russia in strategic companies, such as Russian Helicopters.
  • Prior to this, in December 2016, al-Nahyan had an informal meeting in New York City with Trump advisors. Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner were all present at the meeting. Just before this meeting, according to U.S. intelligence, Jared Kushner discussed the creation of an informal communications channel with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
  • In November 2017, Erik Prince testified before U.S. Congress that he met with Dmitriev in the Seychelles (although Prince claimed that he didn’t remember Dmitriev’s last name). However, Prince said that the meeting was a chance encounter and that they only had “one beer” together.
  • However, special counsel Mueller now has a new witness – a Lebanese American businessman, George Nader, who was not only present at the meeting but also helped to organize it. According to Nader, the meeting was pre-arranged, and the aim of the meeting was to establish a communications channel between Trump’s team and Moscow, in order to discuss future relations between the two countries.

Kirill Dmitriev gave no comment on the issue at the request by The Bell.

What else connects Dmitriev to Trump

  • At the end of January 2017, Dmitriev met in Davos with Trump’s then advisor Anthony Scaramucci.
    After their meeting, Dmitriev spoke of the new American presidential administration’s desire to
    engage in a dialogue with Russia. In the summer of 2017, CNN reported that this meeting was the
    subject of a U.S. Senate investigation, but on the next day, for the first time in 19 years, the report
    was removed from CNN’s website for noncompliance with editorial standards, and three of the
    report’s authors were fired.
  • When Donald Trump announced in December 2016 that Wilbur Ross would be his Secretary of Commerce, the American media recalled that Ross served in the 1990s on the board of The U.S.-Russia Investment Fund, TUSRIF. TUSRIF’s capital in Russia was managed by Delta Private Equity Partners, of which Dmitriev was CEO.

Why the world should care

Trump will have more problems than anyone else as a result of Mueller’s new discoveries, each new
piece of evidence connecting Trump to Russia strengthens Trump’s opponents’ position and
increases the possibility of impeachment (although, it is true that this hasn’t been discussed much in
the past six months). For us it is important to understand that each new discovery decreases the
likelihood of the removal of sanctions against Russia and increases the likelihood of the introduction
of new sanctions.