SCANDAL: Sordid secret life of Russian foreign minister exposed by Navalny dissidents

Sergei Lavrov’s mistress lived lavishly, family funded by oligarch tied to Trump campaign

In a stunning expose, a group affiliated with Russia’s best known dissident Aleksei A. Navalny has laid bare the secret life of the country’s second most powerful official, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Published on the eve of Russian Duma elections on Sept. 16, “Yachts, bribes and mistress. What Minister Lavrov hides” is a 36 minute documentary that must've had President Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs choking on their breakfast!

As of Sept. 20, the video had already racked up 4.8 million views – most of whom must have been Russians because it is subtitled in English. It even has a connection to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

But it is absolutely must see TV. Watch it below.

At the Russian-language website iStories – one group which co-produced the documentary – the headline to the Sept. 14 story is The main secret of Minister Lavrov

Below the headline, is the following introductory paragraph: “The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry has for many years had a close relationship with Svetlana Polyakova, a woman whose partners and relatives began to occupy key positions in the ministry, and the family acquired assets worth more than 1 billion rubles.”

Directly below that, under a red rule in a prominent box (image here highlighted in blue), is the following mysterious but ominous sounding second paragraph which sounds like it might have been inserted by the Russian censors:

“This message (material) was created and (or) distributed by a foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent, and (or) by a Russian legal entity performing the functions of a foreign agent.” (Courtesy of Google Translate.)

This might be part of the reason why a thorough search of major English language publications in Moscow could turn up no information whatsoever about the scandal.

However the sordid story did get some significant coverage just across the border from Russia in Riga, Latvia.

On Sept. 17, Meduza – which bills itself as “The real Russia Today” – published ‘Working trips’ Team Navalny looks into Sergei Lavrov’s ‘female companion’ identified by investigative journalists

“Building off the iStories investigation, Team Navalny published its own deep-dive into the relationship between Sergei Lavrov and Svetlana Polyakova on Sept. 16.”

Meduza is a Russian- and English-language online newspaper and news aggregator, based in Latvia.

“The journalists from iStories found that Sergei Lavrov and Svetlana Polyakova travelled together on three separate occasions — and speculated that they could have taken other joint trips. In their investigation published on Sept. 16, Alexei Navalny’s associates said that they gained access to ‘all of the Lavrov family’s flights for several years.’ ”

The journalists discovered that several of Polyakova’s friends got jobs in branches of the Ministry, while she herself accompanied Lavrov on a number of ‘working trips’ — some people even saved her contact information as “Svetlana Lavrova.”

The article referred to by Meduza was the Sept. 16 piece Yachts, bribes and mistress. What Minister Lavrov hides:

“The day before yesterday, Important Stories (iStories) had a really important story,” the Navalny group reports, “an investigation that debunked the myth of the alleged only decent politician in Russia. About a real diplomat, honest, decent, worthy. The favorite of millions.”

For context they added, “Putin admires him and puts him at the very top of United Russia’s State Duma list. So that voters see his name and think ‘Oooh, wow! What a great candidate. I want such a deputy, I will definitely vote for United Russia.’ Lavrov according to all polls is almost more popular than Putin himself. He is super famous, and the Russians trust him. They shouldn’t!”

The documentary hides nothing

From the opening frames, it is devastating. There is no doubt whatsoever about its point of view.

“For 20 years, Putin and United Russia have been destroying our country. They have occupied Russia, ransacked it, adopted savage laws and imprisoned everyone … who oppose[s] them,” says the announcer.

“They want to rule and feast forever. We must stop them.”

The research methods used by iStories and Team Navalny investigators are open-source – a combination of public records, image metadata, flight logs, social media posts, maritime tracking, Geo-tagging in images and identifying individuals who would prefer to remain hidden.

They are reminiscent of the more famous Bellingcat which uses similar methods to expose corruption and malfeasance around the globe.

“We have at our disposal the list of all flights of the Lavrov family for several years. … [It’s] absolutely shameless, but even this is not the most interesting thing we found in the flight details of the Lavrov family,” the announcer reports.

“Svetlana Polyakova … is simply Lavrov’s mistress.”

According to iStories, the source of funding for the Lavrov clan’s lavish lifestyle is one whose name might ring familiar to Americans.

“[Polyakova’s] mother also flies on Oleg Deripaska’s plane; he took her to Germany,” they report.

“At the same time the minister is quietly plundering the Ministry of Foreign affairs itself. He flies on every one on [Deripaska’s] airplanes, shows the world to his mistress, his mistresses’ niece, his daughter.”

In an ingenious bit of investigative sleuthing, iStories was able to match Instagram images of Lavrov’s relatives with a drone shot of the Montenegrin villa of Deripaska, with its aquamarine pool and distinctively angled colonnade. It’s unmistakable in the aerial drone shot.

“Where else can the foreign minister's stepdaughter celebrate her 22nd birthday if not in the oligarch’s villa?” Good question!

Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska is a Russian oligarch and industrialist. He is the founder of Basic Element, one of Russia's largest industrial groups, and Volnoe Delo, Russia's largest charitable foundation.

This is where the connection to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign comes in. In a March 22, 2017 article the Associated Press reported:

“Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to ‘greatly benefit the Putin Government,’ The Associated Press has learned.

“Manafort proposed a confidential strategy plan … to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006.”

Bingo!

Read the subtitles fast

English-language viewers might have to exert extra effort to follow the intricacies of the investigation. The English subtitles do make clear what is going on. But you don’t want to miss the images … some are incredibly clever. Run the video at slow speed – it’s better!

To ease you on your way, here is a list of the main characters roughly in their order of appearance: Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov; his step-daughter Polina Polyakova; her mother and Lavrov’s mistress Svetlana Polyakova: her mother, 73-year-old Tamara Polyakova, the unofficial “mother-in-law;” 18-year old Valeria Polyakova, the niece … and also in a starring role, oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and his mother Valentine Petrovna Deripaska.

Announcer: “Investigative journalists have found out that for many years, Lavrov has lived a double life. In public, he is a decent family (man) with 50 years of marriage behind him, a modest hard worker who lives quite poorly by the standards of United Russia.

“[He espouses] traditional values, conservatism, spiritual bonds. But in fact, all of this time he has had a secret second family, a mistress who[m] he showers with expensive cars, elite real estate in Moscow, Moscow Oblast (the region surrounding the city) and London.”

They then cut to a clip of the foreign minister himself speaking:

“We defend traditional values, the values of the family, especially in the face of attempts to undermine the traditional God-given understanding of the family,” Lavrov is seen saying on screen.

Then the host continues: “It seems to me,” he says, “… that it's wrong to say that this is a secret mistress or something like that.

“It’s an actual family. The only things related to Lavrov’s official wife one can find perhaps [are] an old photograph … and the falsified asset disclosure, which he submits every year, and for some reason includes her there.”

Apparently Lavrov never took much trouble to conceal his secret relationship.

“Literally everyone knew about Lavrov’s real wife, as iStories, found out. Well, except for all of us (the public).”

According to the report, in the contact lists of many people, she is recorded as Svetlana Lavrova.

“A source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters that literally everyone in the foreign ministry knows that this woman is Lavrov’s wife and almost the most influential person in the ministry… of course she is very, very rich.”

Perhaps the most explosive allegation of all comes at 27:29 into the video when across the screen flashes the following subtitle: “Minister Lavrov is the personal lobbyist of the oligarch Deripaska.”

Wrapping up their commentary, they note “… [with this discovery] Lavrov should not only be removed from the elections, he should be jailed. Lavrov himself and his family have been supported by an oligarch for many years.”

As of this writing, the Lavrov scandal has received scant attention either in Russia or globally. According to The New York Times, the video has been blocked in Russia by Google since at least Sunday. Apologies to our (potential) Russian viewers.

With his high international profile, his interactions with world leaders and his appearances at the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov – the REAL Lavrov – should be better understood. This story deserves much more attention.

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