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How oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev funded the Euromaidan coup
“He’s not even a real Russian” – that’s the worst insult Russian president Vladimir Putin throws at mortal enemies. And he used just this phrase to privately denounce Dmitry Rybolovlev, who is a Russian, but in self-imposed Western exile

BriefingWire.com, 4/08/2015 - ...with a $8.8bn fortune he made in Russia.

The 48-year-old oligarch made his fortune with a potash fertilizer company called Uralkali, which he sold around seven years ago and sent the money offshore to Cyprus. As the conventional wisdom of Russians who made their fortune with former state assets they grabbed in the crumbling days of the Soviet Union goes, get the money out of the country before you fall out with the President. And it seems there is no love lost between Rybolovlev and Putin.

The Russian authorities consider Rybolovlev a traitor for his failure to pay for the disaster Uralkali caused in Berezniki at the time Rybolovlev managed the company. The town in central Russia literally sank into the abyss when a huge sinkhole suddenly appeared in 2007, which was the result of Uralkali’s mining activities and lax policies. A number of buildings were destroyed and citizens had to be moved, having lost their houses and belongings. The Russian state paid for it and never managed to hold Rybolovlev accountable.

He was by that time, in 2008, safely installed in a EUR 300m penthouse in Monaco and also owned two of the most expensive properties in the US, in Palm Beach and New York. His billions had been funneled into corporate trusts in Cyprus, a signature move of Russian oligarchs. Putin to claim damages from his former ally for the industrial disaster at Berezniki was hopeless, a position the Russian president is not comfortable with.

Relations further soured when Rybolovlev started a close relationship with Ukrainian lawyer Tetiana Bersheda, who studied in Switzerland and represents him personally. The daughter of Ukrainian diplomat Evhen Bersheda, who is described as powerful yet discreet, this was a way for Rybolovlev into the heart of Ukrainian power – and a perfect opportunity to stir sentiment against his enemy, Putin.

Evhen is thoroughly pro-European, even pro-NATO. The former Ukrainian ambassador to Switzerland, shares Rybolovlev’s hatred of Russia, not least for what they see as outdated power structures and nepotism. He has long been an advocate of a more Western-oriented Ukraine and has organized a NATO workshop on economic security issues as early as 1997. He was also involved in drafting agreements between the EU and Ukraine on long-term economic cooperation as similar international trade agreements, and was a member of committees that represented nations in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. While not mincing his words when criticizing Russia, Evhen was fired from the legitimate pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Victor Yanukovich in 2010.

Evhen and Rybolovlev have now two things in common: Tetiana and a hatred for Russia. It is through this channel that Rybolovlev managed to support the removal of Yanukovich in the Euromaidan protests that started in November 2013. He reportedly supported the protests with millions, brought into the country through Tetiana’s personal bank accounts, held in Monaco, and her father’s various parliamentary connections in Ukraine.

French intelligence services are believed to be aware of his dealings and are investigating him. They have already confirmed Tetiana’s receipt of the millions into her account. Rybolovlev has chosen to play with fire. Falling out of favour with Putin is a dangerous position to be in for a start. Funding anti-Russian protests in a former Russian satellite state is quite another.

 
 
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