On the evening of April 11, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump hired the political consultant Paul Manafort to lead his campaign’s efforts to wrangle Republican delegates, Manafort emailed his old lieutenant Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for him for a decade in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Manafort wrote.
“Absolutely,” Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. “Every article.”
“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asks. “Has OVD operation seen?”
According to a source close to Manafort, the initials “OVD” refer to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and one of Russia’s richest men. The source also confirmed that one of the individuals repeatedly mentioned in the email exchange as an intermediary to Deripaska is an aide to the oligarch.
There is no evidence that Deripaska met with Manafort in 2016, or knew about Manafort’s attempts to reach him. Yet the extended correspondence between Manafort and Kilimnik paints a more complete portrait of Manafort’s willingness to trade on his campaign position. Manafort is a high-profile focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the possibility of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. FBI agents raided Manafort’s home in July.
Deripaska had been Manafort’s client in various post-Soviet states, but the relationship soured after an investment Manafort managed for Deripaska fell apart. Manafort had represented Deripaska in Georgia and Ukraine, and his firm also represented Deripaska’s commercial interests in Montenegro.
In 2007, Manafort and his partners established a private equity fund that would acquire Ukrainian firms and merge them into larger national entities. Manafort and his partners collected over $7 million in fees for managing this fund from firms controlled by Deripaska, according to a 2014 petition filed in the Cayman Islands, filed by Deripaska’s lawyers.
In 2008, Deripaska transferred $18.9 million to the fund so that it could purchase Black Sea Cable, a Ukrainian telecommunication company, according to the petition. It’s not clear what became of Deripaska’s investment, or if the private-equity fund actually took control of the company. In the Cayman Islands petition, his lawyers alleged the venture had been botched, and requested the “winding down of the partnership.” The petition alleges that when Deripaska asked for an accounting of the investment in 2013, Manafort simply didn’t respond. “It appears that Paul Manafort and [his deputy] Rick Gates have simply disappeared,” the Russian oligarch’s lawyers wrote.