10:12 Nov. 7, 2016
Russia's backing of Donald Trump explained
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has secretly met with Ukraine's disgraced ex-President Viktor Yanukovych over the ledgers that mention Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort, according to Newsweek.
"According to information obtained from inside Russia by Western intelligence, Putin met with Yanukovych in secret near Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad. Yanukovych assured Putin there was no documentary trail showing payments to Manafort, although Putin told associates he did not believe the Ukrainian president, according to the information obtained by the Western intelligence source," Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald wrote in an article titled "Why Vladimir Putin's Russia is Backing Donald Trump".
On August 14, The New York Times reported that Manafort, then Trump's campaign manager, may have illegally received US 12.7 million from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions from 2007 to 2012.
Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Richard Hibey, said his client never received any such payments.
Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign not long after the article ran.
The media also reported that Manafort's firm was directly engaged in a secret operation to lobby the interests of the pro-Russian governing Regions Party in Washington, D.C., during Yanukovych's presidency.
According to The Associated Press, Donald Trump's campaign chairman helped Yanukovych's Regions Party to secretly route at least USD 2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012 to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych's government.
The lobbying also included attempts to gain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.
The emails obtained by The Associated Press show Manafort's deputy Rick Gates personally directed two Washington lobbying firms, Mercury LLC and the Podesta Group Inc., between 2012 and 2014 to set up meetings between a top Ukrainian official and senators and congressmen on influential committees involving Ukrainian interests.
That lobbying included downplaying the necessity of a congressional resolution meant to pressure the Ukrainian leader to release an imprisoned political rival.
The lobbying firms continued the work until shortly after Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014, during a popular revolt prompted in part by his government's crackdown on protesters and close ties to Russia.