McCain's Kremlin Ties

For Immediate Release

The Nation
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Ben Wyskida, 212/209-5426

McCain's Kremlin Ties

Exclusive Nation Investigation Links Campaign Manager Rick Davis to Questionable Russian Oligarchs; McCain in Nomination Speech: "Russian oligarchs, who, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power...[are] reassembling the old Russian Empire."

WASHINGTON - In an investigation just posted at TheNation.com (and running in tomorrow's Nation Magazine) reporters Ari Berman and Mark Ames detail extensive business connections between John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis and Russian Business Interests, specifically Russian business interests in Montenegro connected to Putin. The article also details the connections between his campaign manager's lobbying firm, Davis-Manafort, and Ukraine and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, advancing some prior reporting on the topic.

Link is here:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081020/ames_berman

In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, McCain lashed out at Putin and the Russian oligarchs, who, "rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power...[are] reassembling the old Russian Empire."

Both Berman and Ames are available for interviews; below are several key passages from the piece.

Excerpts -- "McCain's Kremin Ties"

Despite McCain's tough talk, behind the scenes his top advisers have cultivated deep ties with Russia's oligarchy--indeed, they have promoted the Kremlin's geopolitical and eco-nomic interests, as well as some of its most unsavory business figures, through greedy cynicism and geopolitical stupor. The most notable example is the tale of how McCain and his campaign manager, Rick Davis, advanced what became a key victory for the Kremlin: gaining control over the small but strategically important country of Montenegro.

According to two former senior US diplomats who served in the Balkans, Davis and his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, received several million dollars to help run Montenegro's independence referendum campaign of 2006. The terms of the agreement were never disclosed to the public, but top Montenegrin officials told the US diplomats that Davis's work was underwritten by powerful Russian business interests connected to the Kremlin and operating in Montenegro.

...

Though Davis has claimed no connection to his partner Manafort's controversial activities in Ukraine, he nevertheless hired at least three specialists recommended by Manafort, from the same team Manafort used for Yanukovich's victory, to work on Montenegro's independence referendum. They included Russian political operative Andrei Ryabchuk, an elections specialist who had previously worked on pro-Putin campaigns in Russia. Ryabchuk told The Nation that he was "recruited by Mana-fort's people" out of Moscow to the Ukraine operation and then on to Montenegro.

Davis's team was vetted by Montenegro's Russian ambassador Rocen, who was returning from Moscow to oversee the in-dependence campaign. Why was Davis hired? The top McCain aide was as much a political symbol as a campaign con-sultant. "I think the Montenegrins hired Rick to have po--liti-cal cover-it was important to show they had support from the Unit-ed States," said an American democracy expert who's worked in Montenegro. Though disclosure is required by Mon-tenegrin law, Davis Manafort's contract with the ruling Monte-negrin party was never publicly released. In addition, Djukanovic's party never listed payments to Davis Manafort on its election filings, lending credence to private claims by top Montenegrin officials that Russian business interests paid for Davis's work through hired third parties, an oft-used though illegal tactic in Eastern Europe to disguise money trails.

...

A few months after the vote, McCain and a contingent of GOP senators visited Montenegro. The day before they arrived, Djukanovic had flown to Putin's dacha on the Black Sea. "Your government made it possible for large-scale Russian investments," Putin told the Montenegrin leader. Djukanovic then returned to Montenegro and warmly received McCain, who also met with the Montenegrin president, speaker of Parliament and opposition leader Predrag Bulatovic. Bulatovic told McCain about how Russian capital was taking over the country and of his concern that "this investment can have a negative impact on the democratic process." McCain listened but kept criticism of Russia to himself. Meanwhile, Davis was still in the country, helping Djukanovic's Russia-allied party win the upcoming parliamentary elections. (At the time, Djukanovic was under in--vestigation by Italian prosecutors for cigarette smuggling and "Mafia-type activities.")

 

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