- After the 2014 revolution that forced out Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort played a key role in reorganising Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party.
- The new party won seats in Ukraine’s parliament after Manafort personally approved their list of candidates.
- Manafort remained in contact with a political operative in Ukraine who helped him promote the new party through the Trump campaign.
The indictment special counsel Robert Mueller handed down earlier this month highlighted President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lobbying work on behalf of Russian-backed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
After Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, Manafort remained active in Ukraine, and played an important role in organising the main pro-Russia party in the country that exists today.
Manafort continued working for a pro-Russian party in Ukraine after he renamed it
Mueller’s indictment of Manafort alleges that he laundered millions of dollars in payments from Yanukovych’s party, the Party of Regions, through offshore bank accounts, companies in the Hamptons, and clothing stores for lobbying and consulting work he did in Ukraine, western Europe, and the United States.
The indictment also mentions Manafort’s work with the Opposition Bloc, the party that emerged after Yanukovych’s ouster to replace the Party of Regions as the main pro-Russian party in the country, and alleges that Manafort received payments from his work with the party through 2016.
After the fall of Yanukovych’s government in 2014, Manafort reportedly took a leading role in creating a new organisation from the remnants of the Party of Regions, and rallied Yanukovych allies to rebrand their pro-Russian party into a generally anti-Western voting coalition, according to The New York Times. It was Manafort himself who came up with the party’s new name, the Opposition Bloc.
“He thought to gather the largest number of people opposed to the current government, you needed to avoid anything concrete, and just become a symbol of being opposed,” Kiev-based political analyst Mikhail B. Pogrebinsky told The Times.
However in truth, John E. Herbst, the former US ambassador to Ukraine and current director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said that the party was not much different from the original Party of Regions.
“It was a continuation of something that had existed,” Herbst told Business Insider. “And Manafort, who had been the cancellieri of the Party of Regions, continued on as the cancellieri of the Opposition Bloc.”
“He was the guy directing their political campaign while they were a campaign, and he helped them stay in power,” Herbst said, speaking about Manafort’s role in the Party of Regions.
A former US diplomat told Business Insider that Manafort performed the same duties for the Opposition Bloc, and that individuals in Ukraine had shown the source border documents indicating that Manafort was present in Ukraine during various periods between 2014 and 2016.
Manafort’s work helped the Opposition Bloc win seats in Ukraine’s parliament
Although party officials thought the Opposition Bloc was unlikely to succeed, as a result of Manafort’s work, the Bloc was able to keep seats in Ukraine’s Parliament in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
A party official for the Bloc told Bloomberg that Manafort personally approved the list of 2014 candidates, and one of the Bloc’s leaders Nestor Shufrych reportedly celebrated its relative success in the elections with a bottle of cognac in Manafort’s office after paying him $US1 million for his work with them, according to Bloomberg.
One of Manafort’s closest confidants in his work with the Bloc was Russian-Ukrainian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik, with whom Manafort promoted the Opposition Bloc as the voice of Russians in eastern Ukraine. Kilimnik reportedly kept in touch with Manafort during the course of the 2016 campain, and the pair spoke about Trump and developments in Ukraine. Kilimnik also reportedly broached the possibility of dropping an anti-Russian stance on Ukraine from the Republican party platform in the summer of 2016, which the GOP eventually did.
Manafort reportedly only stopped receiving payments from the Bloc in April 2016, a month after joining the Trump campaign, according to The Washington Post. Since then, he has reportedly been relying on Kilimnik to collect unpaid fees from the Opposition Bloc that Manafort believes he is owed.
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