Paul Manafort’s days are numbered: FSB is zooming in
Our Moscow sources are telling us that FSB is concerned about Manafort’s possible cooperation with the prosecution, and divulging information about Kremlin’s inner workings.
Paul Manafort’s arrest is very likely directly tied to Russian intelligence operations. Even a quick look at his indictment shows this. In Ukraine, Manafort made millions of dollars between 2006 and 2015 working to advance the agenda of the Party of Regions, a political organization with close ties to Russia. He then, according to the indictment, laundered those millions through Cyprus, a country widely known as the laundromat of choice for wealthy Russians. “Start with Cyprus. Any time you see Russia and Cyprus connected, it’s a huge red flag,” an investment banker with experience in Eastern Europe told me months ago after I asked how one would search for financial ties between Trump and Russia.
Given how thoroughly Russian intelligence had penetrated Ukraine’s government by 2014, the Kremlin, at the very least, had to have known about Manafort’s illegal activities, giving it leverage to turn him into an asset. This is a move straight out of the customary Russian intelligence playbook.
Much of this saga turns on Manafort’s work with the Party of Regions. This organization isn’t your run-of-the-mill political party. The party reportedly draws the majority of its support from the province of Donetsk, where Russian operatives have stoked political and ethnic tensions and are waging war against the Ukrainian government. Its members have reportedly advanced the cause of reintegrating Ukraine with Russia, with one of them apparently doing so while holding a powerful seat in the Crimean legislature as Russia moved to annex Crimea. Perhaps its most famous member is former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Moscow (along with his prime minister, another party member) during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that ousted his government.
Not only was Manafort, in essence, advancing the Kremlin’s agenda in Ukraine, he was also doing so without registering with the United States government as a foreign agent, and he was then laundering the profits he was making from this activity. If this information were to have been made public, there would have been a great chance that Manafort would’ve faced arrest in the United States. As soon as he started these activities, then, Russian intelligence likely had him in its clutches. As Just Security’s Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA official, explained, such a trap would line up well with Moscow’s standard methods for recruiting foreign agents, wittingly or unwittingly, and may have turned Manafort, who has business ties with Russia going back at least to 2006.