Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
I’m concerned about the propaganda focused on Belarus and the military power building against Ukraine.
Russia is the MSM’s revenue goldmine today, aside from ISIS in London.
Laundromat post-mortem essays are must read and must heed items for the West’s political leaders. Lucas and Goble testify to Congress on Russia in the Baltics.
Multiple reports on Russia.
WSJ OpEd “Only Trump Can Go to Ukraine” is on target and would be fatal to the Russian influence campaign in the EU and political disruption campaign in the US.
Two bad developments in Ukraine. The first was that former Russian MP Denys Voronenkov who criticized Putin and was to testify in the high treason trial of Yanukovich was assassinated in Kiev. The assassin who hit Voronenkov was believed to have only been wounded in the subsequent firefight with an SBU bodyguard but later died in hospital during surgery for gunshot wounds, so backtracking the Russians who organized the hit may be difficult.
The second development is that the largest ammunition depot in Ukraine at Balakliya near Kharkiv experienced a major fire across one-third of the facility, suspected to be RPV strike or sabotage, although DefMin Poltorak says much of war stock was previously dispersed to other sites and damage is not critical. Both are major propaganda wins for Russia in Europe.
Donbass bombardment continues unabated today. Fascinating history report that supports DNA maps on Hunnic invasion of Ukraine.
Iran makes a bizarre claim that Russia sold the IFF codes to the newly delivered Iranian S-300PMU2 / SA-20B systems to Israel. The notion that Elta in Israel is not smart enough to engineer waveforms for Russian IFF into their EWSP equipment borders on the inane, but if Iran wants to believe the Russians double-crossed them, which they usually do to friends and enemies alike, they are welcome to do so.
US domestic debate over Russia continues along at least three concurrent threads of argument.
Two years ago, when Garry Kasparov, the chess champion turned political dissident, began to warn that Vladimir Putin sought to undermine liberal democracy—not only in neighboring countries, but all over the West—he was widely written off as a crank. After Russia managed to hack the servers of the Democratic National Committee and spread fake news on an industrial scale, his warnings were finally recognized as all too prescient. But it is only over the past weeks, as journalists around the world have broken dozens of stories about Russian meddling in the democratic process, that the sheer scale of this effort has become apparent.
Cultivating corrupt political proxies in order to sow chaos in the West is a game as old as the Comintern itself. But a set of technological, social, political, and above all financial innovations have made the old playbook much more effective.
Russia: how Cheka-coercive model of economy was built. Russia is built and managed pursuant to the laws and logic of a large vertically integrated corporation on the top of which are Chekists [former KGB] and their “oligarchic projects”. Political loyalty became the main criterion of business assessment. Political – LB.ua news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today
The Kremlin’s “black cash” corrodes our financial system, corrupts our political institutions, subverts the rule of law, and undermines our values. But here’s the thing: As this week’s important report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project on Russian money laundering starkly illustrates, the Kremlin’s black cash wouldn’t be undermining the West at all if the West hadn’t let it in the door. Because a lot of Western bankers, brokers, accountants, lawyers, and estates agents are making a tidy profit from the Kremlin’s black cash. And in the process, they are aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin’s campaign to undermine the foundations of Western democracy. They’re Putin’s “fellow travelers.” During the Cold War, Soviet elites claimed that the West’s corruption and decadence would ultimately do it in. They claimed that Western liberal capitalism contained within it the seeds of its own demise. They were wrong then, of course. And more than a quarter-century after the Soviet collapse, it would be worse than a tragedy if they turned out to be right today. The Kremlin’s black cash buys networks of influence, funds xenophobic movements, and finances “black ops” and “active measures.” The Kremlin’s black cash can be used to sabotage our elections and democracies. The Kremlin’s black cash is indeed the new Red Menace. For the countries of the West, the Kremlin’s black cash is a deadly serious threat to national security.
ON MY MIND As a must-read piece featured below by Neil Barnett clearly illustrates, the West needs to take the issue of unaccountable “black cash” much more seriously. It needs to recognize that combating money laundering and offshore havens are not just matters of good governance, but matters of national security. Because as Barnett notes, the Kremlin is not just using these tools to establish networks of influence and “Finlandize” the West, it is also trying to “Putinize” our domestic political systems as well. It is trying to establish a network of Moscow-dependent oligarchs and pro-Moscow political parties in the West. And it is doing so at a time when antiestablishment sentiment in the West is rising.This all adds up to what he calls “an existential threat to democracy.” Barnett offers some common-sense prescriptions like tightening up money-laundering and campaign-finance laws, marginalizing and ultimately eliminating offshore centers, and stronger financial disclosure requirements for elected officials and candidates. I argue on today’s Daily Vertical that those profiting from Moscow’s black cash are the Kremlin’s “fellow travelers.” Barnett’s piece offers some ideas about what can be done about this, and is well worth a read.
Some of the laundered Russian money was used to buy fancy cars. Some of it to purchase furs. Some of it paid for elite prep-school fees. And some of it was spent on real estate. But at least some of the Russian black cash also helped finance political mischief. The latest investigation into Russian money laundering by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) exposed the inner workings of a vast criminal conspiracy to siphon at least $20 billion out of Russia and launder it through foreign banks. The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.
Head of National Crime Agency unit says Russian officials will not say if money entering UK is from proceeds of crime
Testimony Prepared for a Hearing on US Policy toward the Baltic States, US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Sub-Committee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats March 22, 2017
The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses In SlovakiaOlexia Basarab has a report for the for the Policy Association for an Open Society
A former Hungarian spy has broken cover to describe how the Russians have played up and exaggerated the European refugee crisis for propaganda. Farenc Katrein, who served in the country’s counter-intelligence agency for 13 years, said the Kremlin is “aggravating” the effects of migration by spreading “false” stories.
Moscow says it hopes former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic will be granted provisional release from detention in The Hague to undergo medical treatment in Russia. The statement by th…
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia have signed an agreement to settle Moscow’s $125.2 million Soviet-era debt to the Balkan country. Bosnia’s Finance Ministry said the deal signed on March 22 i…
The head of NATO’s military committee recently held a telephone call with the chief of the Russian general staff, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on March 22. Stoltenberg said Pet…
The Kremlin has sought to cast doubt on a report that conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was paid 50,000 euros ($54,000) to arrange a meeting between Russian President Vladimi…
The president’s useful anti-feminists legitimise a slide towards a patriarchal society – and offer no political challenge to his macho leadership
Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has rejected sites proposed by the authorities for an anticorruption rally on March 26, vowing to hold the protest in central Moscow. Navalny’…
Russia’s lower house of parliament has approved legislation to exempt Russians who are under Western sanctions from paying tax in Russia if they are registered as taxpayers in foreign countrie…
A lawyer representing the family of the deceased Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky remained hospitalized on March 22 after falling several stories from his apartment building, thoug…
Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein of the Air Force said the United States’ nuclear policy toward Russia “has got to be some behavior that gets them to the table.”
U.S. weapon designers may deserve a pat on the back for the sheer cleverness of an improved targeting system that is turning aging nuclear warheads into surgically precise weapons. But a new analysis warns of risky consequences. The fix, which has been developed quietly over 2 decades and is now being deployed on U.S. submarine–launched ballistic missiles, makes a small adjustment to the height at which a warhead explodes. The result is a dramatic improvement in the odds that the blast will destroy its target.
Some 2,500 soldiers of the Russian Airborne Forces took part in large-scale military exercises in the Crimean peninsula, that Russia annexed in 2014. In course of the command-and-staff exercise of the Russian Airborne troops held at the Opuk range in Crimea, a battalion tactic group of the Novorossiysk airborne-assault (mountain) division was airdropped with armament and military hardware. Up to 40 scouts of the reconnaissance unit jumped from Il-76 aircraft from the altitude of 1,300 meters using the Arbalet-2 special parachute systems. The main forces (more than 300 servicemen) were airdropped from the altitude of 800 meters using D-10 parachutes. The servicemen also carried out the seaborne operation and landed on an unequipped coast as well as airdrop operation from helicopters.
The Novosibirsk aviation plant named after Chkalov exceeds the plan on introduction of the Su-34 bombers in the Russian Aerospace Forces. Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov reported on that at the conference headed by the Minister of Defence General of the Army Sergei Shoigu. Yuri Borisov explained that the plant was to introduce 14 Su-34 bombers a year. However, the plant has been introducing 16 such aircraft a year. In 2017, the Russian Aerospace Forces will receive 16 new front bombers for the last three years. In total, the plant is to produce 92 such aircraft for the Russian Defence Ministry. According to him, the plant will start modernization of these aircraft in 2018. “I consider that Su-34 has huge export potential. Many counties are interested in this aircraft,” said Yuri Borisov. The Novosibirsk aviation plant is included in the Sukhoi Company.
A number of young Russians are making names for themselves by posting videos of life-threatening stunts online.
Misinformation, and increasingly disinformation, is distorting the public’s ability to make sense of the world around them, threatening the democratic process around the globe. While not a new…
By Jeanne Brooks, James Geary, Burt Herman, Jenny 8. Lee, Phillip Smith, and Claire Wardle Misinformation, and increasingly disinformation, is distorting the public’s ability to make sense of the world around them, threatening the democratic process around the globe. While not a new phenomenon, the problem is compounded by both the speed that information travels…
Fifth Domain is a news and information resource that brings civilian, defense, industry, private sector and critical infrastructure stakeholders together in one place for a holistic discussion on cybersecurity, both defense and offense. The cyberwar is here. Fifth Domain has it covered.
Reagan demonstrated how a show of strength can reframe the terms of engagement.
President Petro Poroshenko does not believe that the murder of the former Russian State deputy Denis Voronenkov and the fire at the ammo depot in Balakliya occurred on the same day by mere coincidence. “The insidious murder of Denis Voronenkov in the center of Kyiv is an act of state-sponsored terrorism on the part of Russia, which Voronenkov was forced to leave for political reasons. There’s clear modus operandi of Russian secret services, which had been repeatedly demonstrated in various European capitals. He one a key witnesses of Russian aggression against Ukraine, in particular, the role of Yanukovych in the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine,” Petro Poroshenko said at a meeting with law enforcers on Thursday, 23 March. “I recon it was not accidental that the murder occurred on the same day with the sabotage in Balakliya, Kharkiv Region,” the president concluded. In the small hours of 23 March in the city of Balakliya, Kharkiv Region, a fire broke out in the territory of Ukraine’s largest military depot. The fire caused the detonation of 125- and 152-mm tank and artillery shells. According to the military prosecutor’s office, the cause of the fire was sabotage, in the course of which incendiary devices were dropped from an enemy drone. The depo accommodated 125 thousand tons of ammunition in numerous warehouses on the territory of 368 ha. Firefighters do not extinguish the fire amid ongoing ammo explosions. A former State Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov was shot dead in the center of Kiev at in the afternoon of 23 March, near the five-star Premier Palace hotel. Voronenkov at the end of 2016 moved to Ukraine and was given Ukrainian citizenship. He was one of the witnesses in the case of high treason of Viktor Yanukovych.
The killer, who shot earlier on Thursday in the center of Kiev State Duma ex-MP Dennis Voronenkova, died at the Kyiv City Clinical Hospital №17 from those obtained during a firefight gunshot wounds. “The killer of ex-deputy of the State Duma D.Voronenkova died in hospital,” – wrote in his Twitter account to a spokesman for the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Larisa Gar Thursday afternoon. Internet publication “Gromadske.UA” said that the killer was brought to Kyiv City Clinical Hospital №17, where he died. “Chief doctor (17th Hospital – Ed.) Nikolai Demin told about the death of the killer, who killed Voronenkova”, – stated in the published information. The publication quoted Demin, who reported that the killer did 4 operation and open heart massage, so that “it failed to start, but because of too long stop, it has not helped.”
A former Russian lawmaker who defected to Ukraine in 2016 and has compared Russia with Nazi Germany has been shot dead in Kyiv, police say. Kyiv police chief Andriy Kryshchenko told RFE/RL that h…
23.03.17 14:40 – Daring assassination of former Russian State Duma member Voronenkov. PHOTOS+VIDEO 18+ Former Deputy of the Russian State Duma Denys Voronenkov was murdered in downtown Kyiv. ATTENTION: the news contains footage and pictures that may be too gruesome for some audience members so viewer discretion is strongly advised! View photo news.
23.03.17 13:51 – Voronenkov died on scene; SBU officer got wounded, opened fire and injured killer, – journalist Voronenkov, who was a former secret services officer, realized the threats and was taking security measures. View news.
23.03.17 15:10 – “It was demonstrative execution of witness habitual for Kremlin,” – Prosecutor General Lutsenko on Voronenkov assassination The prosecutor general commented on the daring murder of former State Duma Deputy Denys Voronenkov in downtown Kyiv. View news.
Chief of the Ukrainian National Police department for Kyiv Andriy Kryshchenko announces that former deputy of the Russian State Duma Denis Voronenkov has been shot dead downtown Kyiv, according
News 23 March from UNIAN.
A former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov was shot and killed in Kiev Thursday in what Ukrainian police described as a contract hit probably ordered by Russia.
Voronenkov left Russia last year and renounced citizenship after complaining he was persecuted by security agencies
A TOP Russain politician has been gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street.
The emergency incident at the rocket and artillery ammo depot in Balakliya will not cause any significant damage to the country’s defense, Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said on 23 March. “These explosions have not caused any significant harm to the country’s defense capability,” the minister told a briefing. Poltorak noted that a significant part of the ammo after the beginning of the antiterrorist operation was dispersed to other bases and depots, and moved to the ATO zone. The Armed Forces in the ATO zone have enough ammunition and weapons, he added. The fire in Balakliya depo have not been localized yet and continues in one third of the warehouse area. The defence minister said that according to one of the versions, the fire was triggered by an explosive device dropped from a drone.
A munitions depot near the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv caught fire and was rocked by a series of explosions in a huge conflagration that the authorities have blamed on "sabotage," promptin…
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Ukraine and the separatist rebels since 2014.
A series of explosions has hit a warehouse storing tank ammunition and other weapons in eastern Ukraine. The blasts sparked a massive fire, prompting the evacuation of surrounding villages.
Ukrainian officials say around 20,000 people have been evacuated near the border with Russia after a fire at a military arsenal.
Ukraine’s largest ammo on fire, locals evacuated. Tank and artillery shells are exploding. Main – LB.ua news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today
Ukraine munitions blasts prompt mass evacuations – BBC NewsThe dump is used to supply the military in the east and officials say the blasts were sabotage.
23.03.17 12:05 – Ammo still detonating at Balakliia depot, fire extinguishing not possible, – Prosecutor Matios The fire that broke out in the ammunition depot in the Kharkiv region’s Balakliia city is being not extinguished at the moment. View news.
23.03.17 11:44 – Explosions in Balakliia: over 16,000 area residents evacuated, – State Emergency Service. PHOTOS+VIDEO As of 7:30 a.m. March 23, the rescuers continue evacuating residents from Balakliia city and villages adjacent to the exploding ammunition depot in the Kharkiv region. View photo news.
23.03.17 09:54 – Explosions at Balakliia ammunition depot might have been caused by subversive action, Prosecutor Matios says A powerful blast rocked an ammunition depot in Kharkiv region’s Balakliia city on the night of March 23.It might have been caused by subversive actions. View news.
23.03.17 09:01 – Blasts at MoD’s ammunition depot in Kharkiv region: evacuation underway, – State Emergency Service Ordnance started exploding at the Defense Ministry’s ammunition depot situated near the city of Balakliia in the Kharkiv region on the night of March 23, 2017. View news.
Almost 20,000 residents in nearby residential areas have been evacuated due to explosions at a military warehouse near the town of Balaklia in Kharkiv region, according to the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Service. News 23 March from UNIAN.
Russia’s hybrid military forces attacked Ukrainian army positions in Donbas 84 times in the past 24 hours, with one Ukrainian soldier reported as killed in action (KIA) and one as wounded in action (WIA), according to the press service of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Headquarters. News 23 March from UNIAN.
The authorities of the so-called "Luhansk People’s Republic" ("LPR") have received permission to block shipments of products from the "nationalized" Ukrainian enterprises if they do not pay taxes to the budget of the "LPR," according to Information Resistance, a non-governmental project on information security. News 23 March from UNIAN.
23.03.17 12:35 – Ammunition worth 7 billion hryvnia returned to Ukraine Army, – Matios. PHOTOS The total cost of the ammunition returned to the Army is 7,236,381,330 hryvnia ($268,01 million). View photo news.
The blockade of Ukraine’s rebel-held east is snuffing out an industrial revival.
23.03.17 13:06 – US Armed Forces delegation visits training ground in Lviv region, – General Staff. PHOTOS The delegation of U.S. military officers headed by U.S. Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges visited the International Peacekeeping and Security Center situated in Starychi village (the Yavoriv district of the Lviv region). View photo news.
Ukraine’s domestic intelligence agency said on Wednesday that it had prohibited Yulia Samoylova from entering the country for the contest.
Ukraine’s main state security agency has announced it has barred Russia’s contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest from entering the country, drawing a swift and angry reaction from Moscow. …
The Eurovision Song Contest, nominally an apolitical festival of pop music confections and cheerfully tacky costumes, erupted into a political dispute Wednesday after Ukraine banned Russia’s contestant from entering the country.
Marauding hordes of barbarian Huns, under their ferocious leader Attila, are often credited with triggering the fall of one of history’s greatest empires: Rome.
The Islamic Republic says Russia sold codes to Israel that neutralize its air defenses.
Where Ankara sees Syrian Kurdish ‘terrorists’ threatening Turkey, Moscow finds useful partners in fighting Islamic State threat
Syria was supposed to have been the showcase for Russia’s most modern military equipment. Instead, it is a display of Russian military incompetence, poor training, lack of attention to detail, arrogance, and disdain for the value of the life of Russian soldiers and mercenaries. In Ukraine, Russia lost 10 soldiers for every Ukrainian killed, even though Russia had overwhelming numbers of soldiers available and equipment. The equipment Russians used in Ukraine was often decrepit, refurbished to a minimum standard, and taken out of old equipment storage. Syria was supposed to be just the opposite for Russia. In Syria, their state-of-the-art airplanes provided support and cover. They had robots on the battlefield. They brought in Russian Private Military Companies, often former Spetsnaz soldiers, to augment their front line troops who also participated in Crimea. In 2017, alone, Russia lost 18 soldiers and mercenaries. What is unique, however, is the Ministry of Defense only reported the loss of 5 soldiers.
THE black fur hat looked odd on a Libyan warlord. But fur is essential in wintertime Moscow, which has become an essential stop for Middle Eastern leaders like Khalifa Haftar, who visited twice in 2016. This month his rival, Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, dropped by.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he is "absolutely certain” a semiannual meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers can be rescheduled so U.S. Secretary of State Re…
British police have been working through the night to investigate the deadliest terror attack carried out in central London in 12 years, in which four people died and scores were injured.
THIS IS LONDON.
Russia has garnered attention with its advanced electronic warfare capability, and China has upped its game in this space as well.
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
CNN’s bombshell report, explained.
The White House moves to disassociate itself from four Trump associates linked to Russia. A new report suggests that one of them, former campaign chair Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to help Vladimir Putin.
The bureau is exploring whether far-right news outlets, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart and Infowars, have helped Russian operatives.
The feds are not only investigating Russian meddling in the US election and possible links to President Trump — they are looking into some right-wing and conspiratorial websites that boosted the new president and were sharply critical of Hillary Clinton. In particular, the FBI is trying to determine whether bots that promoted articles on websites like Breitbart News and InfoWars were in some way related to Russia’s effort to interfere in the US election, <a href=“http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article139695453.html”>McClatchy reported</a>. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division is leading the probe. The social media bots automatically retweeted and otherwise disseminated posts from the sites throughout the election. It is believed the bots were being run out of Russia. “This may be one of the most highly impactful information operations in the history of intelligence,” a former intelligence official told McClatchy. But not all bots were pro-Trump during the election. <a href=“http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/10/13238804/clinton-campaign-donald-trump-text-bot-quotes”>The Verge reported last October</a> that Clinton’s campaign created one to disseminate Trump quotes that it believed would hurt his candidacy. News of this investigation comes a day after FBI Director James Comey officially confirmed that he’s <a href=“http://nypost.com/2017/03/20/comey-confirms-fbi-is-probing-links-between-team-trump-and-russia/”>investigating the Trump campaign’s possible connections to the Russian meddling</a> in the US election.
In this week’s politics chat, we examine the smoke-to-fire ratio in the reporting about the ties between Trumpworld and Russia. The transcript below has been li…
Rep. Louie Gohmert is calling for a congressional investigation into the connection between Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta, and Russia.
Roger Stone Jr., the legendary Miami-based political consultant and self-styled dirty trickster, found himself in the middle of the House Intelligence Committee hearing maelstrom earlier this week when top Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff questioned whether the FBI was investigating him and other Trump associates as part of its probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.
“I must tell you, I somewhat do,” Trump said. “I very much appreciated the fact they found what they found.”
In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House panel investigating Russian interference in the presidential election bypassed his own committee Wednesday to brief President Trump on information related to U.S. surveillance of his transition team.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes set off a stunning new political controversy Wednesday by revealing that communications of President Donald Trump and associates may have been picked up after the election by intelligence agencies conducting surveillance of foreign targets.
The White House seized on the comments as evidence of wiretapping, but the remarks indicated that the intelligence targets were foreign officials, not President Trump.
Democrats said the unproven claim undermines House investigation of possible coordination between Trump campaign and Russia.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House committee investigating Russia’s election meddling traded charges about snooping and partisan bias — threatening its nascent investigation.
U.S. intelligence agencies inadvertently intercepted communications involving the Trump transition team late last year, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday knocked the Trump administration for its relationship with Russia, criticizing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision to visit Russia before a NATO meeting. “The notion that there’s still this romance with Putin … I’m told [Tillerson] has decided he’s going to go visit Putin before he goes to the NATO conference? What in the hell are we doing?” Biden told reporters at the Capitol.
Congress no longer has the credibility to independently tackle a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump and his associates’ ties to Moscow, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday.
Rep. Devin Nunes’ bombshell disclosures about surveillance reports raise more questions than they answer.
Members of the intelligence community incidentally collected communications from the Trump transition team during legal surveillance operations of foreign targets, a top Republican lawmaker said Wednesday afternoon.
The move gave cover to the White House but was rebuked by top Democrats.
The House intelligence committee chair, a Trump ally, muddied waters and gave comfort to the White House, but he provided no evidence of wrongdoing or support for Trump’s “wiretap” claims.
Here is Adam Schiff’s opening statement at the House intelligence hearing
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) has risked undermining the credibility of the panel’s investigation of Rus…
James Comey, who Democrats say helped Donald Trump win the election, may end up providing Congress with the means to impeach him.
Questions raised over Trump appointee Wilbur Ross and his ties to politically connected Russian oligarchs