A report from POLITICO on March 8 said that the FBI is investigating an operative from Ukraine that has suspected ties to Russian intelligence.
Konstantin Kilimnik was an associate of Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and had conversations about collecting “unpaid fees owed to Manafort’s company,” POLITICO wrote. Manafort is notably under FBI investigation for communicating with Russian intelligence officials during Trump’s presidential campaign, forcing him to resign.
Now, Kilimnik is reportedly under scrutiny from officials in the U.S. because of a couple of those meetings with Manafort. It’s currently unknown if the investigation and interest in Kilimnik is still going on.
Kilimnik didn’t answer any questions from POLITICO, but suggested that any scrutiny he receives from the media is because of the “heated political environment” in America.
Here’s what you need to know about Kilimnik:
1. The Meetings In Question Reportedly Took Place During the Campaign
In an interview February 22, Kilimnik said that he and Manafort would meet “every couple months” during the election, but denied the meetings having anything to do with Russia. Instead, he said that he was briefing Manafort on matters in Ukraine.
One of the meetings in question took place during an April 2016 trip to the U.S. by Kilimnik. During one of the conversations they had a year ago, one of the subjects was the hacking of the emails of the Democratic National Committee, POLITICO’s story wrote. But Manafort had said it was unknown at the time which nation was behind the act.
Kilimnik said in the interview that even though the two had been meeting, he was never “formally advising” Manafort during the election campaign. He argued in an interview that Manafort has been misread by the media and has no Russian ties. He reiterated to The Wall Street Journal in January that he has no relationship with the government in Russia or its intelligence officials.
2. Kilimnik Started Working for Manafort In 2005
Manafort was a consultant to former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted and left the country — twice — after several large, violent protests took place in the streets. Yanukovych sought cover in Russia, allowing Russia President Vladamir Putin to annex Crimea and incite a war in the country.
Kilimnik met Manafort in the early 2000s and started working for him in 2005. He told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an interview how fondly he thinks of Manafort:
Manafort is a guy who can merge strategy and messages into something that will work for victory. He is very skillful.
The pair worked together for Yanukovych’s presidential campaign in 2010, which he won. Kilimnik told RFE/RL that he worked in the administration assisting Manafort.
In July 2016, Trump’s campaign notably changed its stance on giving Ukraine weapons to fight Russian and rebel forces, The Washington Post reported. Kilimnik then reportedly suggested in a summer trip to the U.S. that he played a role in the GOP doing so.
Just one month later in August, The New York Times reported that handwritten ledgers showed $12.7 million in cash payments designated to Manafort that were undisclosed from Yanukovych’s political party, which is notably pro-Russian. The payments took place from 2007-2012.
Amid the controversy, Trump cut his ties with Manafort.
However Kilimnik said that — outside of the briefings during the campaign — he hasn’t been on Manafort’s payroll since 2014.
3. Kilimnik Studied at a Military University in Russia
Kilimnik is 46-years old and studied at the Military University of the Ministry of Defense, then known as The Military University for Foreign Languages in Russia. The school holds the administrative and operational leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and is similar to military academies in the U.S.
Kilimnik was trained in the Russian army as a linguist, POLITICO reported.
The college was formed in 1717 as the College of War. Its headquarters are in Moscow, and it’s under the jurisdiction of Putin. The current minister of Defense for Russia is Sergey Shoygu.
4. He Advised Members of Yanukovych’s Former Party
After Yanukovych was forced out once again in 2013 by protests, both Manafort and Kilimnik began to work for an affiliate of Yanukovych’s old political party, the Party of Regions.
The Party of Regions is a centrist pro-Russia party that was created in 1997. Soon enough, it swelled to become the biggest political party in Ukraine, though most of their representatives left in 2014.
Back in Kiev, Kilimnik would reportedly represent the party in meetings with foreign diplomats.
5. Kilimnik Was Forced Out of a Job in Moscow
Kilimnik worked for the U.S.-based International Republican Institute out of Moscow for almost 10 years before he was forced out. He was reportedly forced out of his job because of suspicion about his ties to Russia. He then started working with Manafort.
According to its “About Us” page on its website, the organization is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is committed to freedom and democracy worldwide by helping political parties to become more issue-based and responsive, assisting citizens to participate in government planning, and working to increase the role of marginalized groups in the political process –- including women and youth.”
It has a staff of about 400 people and is headquartered out of Washington D.C. Its president is Mark Green, a former Republican congressman and former candidate for governor in Wisconsin.
The IRI is funded by the U.S. government and reported a budget of $78 million in 2008. The chairman of the board is U.S. Senator John McCain and its board boasts such members as Rep. Kay Granger and Sen. Tom Cotton.