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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Russian Swamp

At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner reports on Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian-American lobbyist who took part in the infamous Trump Tower meeting.
Akhmetshin, 49, is a longtime DC operator. Since the Associated Press first reported his attendance at the June 2016 meeting the Donald Trump Jr., later confirmed by BuzzFeed News, he has been widely reported as having ties to Russian intelligence. But he has denied an ongoing relationship with the Russian government — though he did tell Politico that he had been drafted to work as a Soviet counterintelligence officer.
Akhmetshin’s work in the US has covered a range of largely unregistered work to influence the US government. In 2011, he arranged a series of meetings with Congress and the State Department meant to undermine political opposition in Kazakhstan. In 2015, he was working to undermine the asylum application of Ashot Egiazaryan, a former Russian parliament member who was facing fraud charges in his home country.

Many of the events of June 2016 dealt, at least in part, with complicated lobbying or legal proceedings related to the Magnitsky Act — a US law imposing sanctions on those responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the United States, various American lawyers and lobbyists have taken up work related to defending or dismantling the Magnitsky Act, as well as similar laws — and Russians like Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin are a frequent presence on matters like this, showcasing just how active Russian interests are, and how enmeshed they are in New York and Washington culture, when it comes to US sanctions.