New Trump Convention Manager Has Close Ties to Putin's Ukrainian Puppet, Viktor Yanukovych
Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, wanted for embezzlement and other crimes, has a close relationship with Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's new convention manager, according to Jim Geraghty at National Review.
Yanukovych, who served as president from 2010 until he was removed from office by parliament following special forces gunning down protesters in Maidan Square in January, 2014, hired Manafort to run his successful presidential campaign and kept him around as an advisor.
The former president was pro-Russian at a time when most Ukrainians were eager to join the EU. His stance on Russia led to demonstrations that turned violent and brought the country to the brink of civil war. After being voted out by parliament, Russian special forces whisked Yanukovych away before he could be arrested.
Geraghty reports that Manafort played a pivotal role in getting Yanukovych elected. This Politico article from 2007 explains the mysterious, behind-the-scenes part played by Manafort:
Manafort’s friends describe his relationship with Yanukovych as a political love connection, born out of Yanukovych’s first downfall when he was driven from power by the 2004 Orange Revolution. Feeling that his domestic political advisers had failed him, Yanukovych turned to a foreign company, Davis Manafort, which was already doing work for the Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. The former Ukrainian PM and Manafort, the Georgetown-educated son of a Connecticut politician, hit it off.
Manafort’s firm had a set of international clients and produced an analysis of the Orange Revolution that Yanukovych found instructive, according to one operative involved in Yanukovych’s political rehabilitation. Manafort became, in effect, a general consultant to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, shaping big-picture messaging, coaching Yanukovych to speak in punchy, American-style sound bites and managing teams of consultants and attorneys in both Ukraine and the United States ahead of an anticipated Yanukovych comeback. While it’s difficult to track payments in foreign elections, a former associate familiar with Manafort’s earnings say they ran into the seven figures over several years.
After Yanukovych’s 2010 victory, Manafort stayed on as an adviser to the Russia-friendly president and became involved in other business projects in Eastern Europe.
Yanukovych was known for his opulent lifestyle, living on a 300-acre estate with gold-plated everything. Wikipedia notes:
"The property contained a private zoo, underground shooting range, 18-hole golf course, tennis, and bowling. After describing the mansion's complicated ownership scheme, the article author noted, "The story of Viktor Yanukovych and his residence highlights a paradox. Having completely rejected such European values as human rights and democracy, the Ukrainian president uses Europe as a place to hide his dirty money with impunity."
All of this constructed for a man who spent most of his career as a civil servant or parliamentary deputy, never pulling down more than $2,000 a month.