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Blood Money: the Leaks Assange Tried to Stop

When hackers targeted Andrea Manafort’s mobile phone they uncovered messages that appear to implicate Paul Manafort in politically motivated killings – so why didn’t Wikileaks publish them?

When hackers targeted Andrea Manafort’s mobile phone they uncovered messages that appear to implicate Paul Manafort in politically motivated killings – so why didn’t Wikileaks publish them?

Wikileaks, which prides itself on championing transparency, has systematically refused to publish material from Ukrainian hackers which is damaging to Russia’s interests. While the organisation’s stance has been reported in Foreign Policy no one has yet managed to answer the question: what they are trying to conceal? Two of the major data dumps that Wikileaks has refused to publish are a hack of the Russian Interior Ministry [FSB] and data from Andrea Manafort’s mobile phone.
Former Wikileaks staff member Emma Best released these internal messages, showing that Wikileaks received the material

Andrea Manafort is the daughter of Paul Manafort, who worked as a political manager for both Donald Trump and disgraced Ukrainian president Yanukovych.

Her phone was hacked in 2016 and the contents were dumped on the darknet. Some of her text messages concern Manafort’s possible involvement in the killing of 48 protesters in Kyiv in February 2014, have been made public, but no one has really answered the questions they raise about Paul Manafort’s involvement in the killings.

The phone hack data also contains documents relating to Manafort’s questionable business deals in Ukraine which have only been partially assessed. There is a clear public interest in using this material to examine his possible involvement in crimes and understanding why Wikileaks chose to suppress this information. There is no further risk to Andrea Manafort’s privacy because the texts are already in the public domain.

The messages relating to the killings of protesters in Kyiv in February 2014 were sent between the Manafort sisters in March 2015.

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Manafort’s eldest daughter, Jessica, claimed to have accessed his emails and discovered that he was using his draft messages to liaise with his Ukrainian contacts.

The texts she wrote to Andrea appear to indicate that the massacre was part of a strategy crafted by Manafort and his Ukrainian contacts.

Why? Becuase prior to Yanukovych fleeing Kyiv, he and his handler were trying to broker a deal with EU support which would have preserved his presidency.

The killings on protesters, which began on 18 February 2014, led political leaders in the EU and the US to pressure Ukraine’s opposition leaders to sign a deal with Yanukovych which they duly did on 21 February 2014. This fits with Jessica’s description of Manafort’s strategy: the killings were an attempt to get the world to “focus” on Ukraine. Although it was badly miscalculated because Yanukovych had to flee the outraged protestors later on that day.

Manafort’s dodgy Ukrainian business deals

Details of the ownership of media companies linked to Dmytro Firtash, Sergei Lovochkin and Ukrainian oligarch Valerii Khoroshkovskii

The phone hack data also contains photographs of a letter addressed to Manafort regarding several possible business deals and signed “JN.” And a graphic of the ownership structure of several companies linked to and owned by Ukrainian gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Firtash is widely believed to be linked to the notorious Russian mobster Semion Mogilevich. Mogilevich has been described by law enforcement agencies as “the boss of bosses” and “the most dangerous mobster in the world.

It also contained a lease agreement between Firtash’s associate Serhii Lovochkin and his wife, and an outline of a TV show which was probably aimed at burnishing Lovochkin’s image.

Part of a plan for a TV talk show aimed at burnishing the image of a political operator referred to both as SV and “Yanukovych’s Grey Cardinal” a name occasionally applied to Lovochkin

The initials JN are the last two letters of Lovochkin’s names when transcribed into English as Serhij Lovochkin[ – exactly the kind of schoolboy cloak and dagger theatrics that is generally used by men who communicate via draft emails.

The letter to Manafort refers to the forthcoming privatisation of Ukrainian telecommunications company Ukrtelekom. It says it will be possible to “influence the conditions of the auction” and “provide a company that will qualify”. It also refers enigmatically to the “Chinese” being able to participate. It says the state-owned Russian telecommunications firm Rostelecom will bid up to $2bn, but the law could be structured to exclude state-owned firms. Finally, it notes that a change in the law will raise the value of Ukrtelekom, post privatisation, to $4bn. In short, a rigged privatisation will allow its participants to walk away with $2bn in profits.

A letter, assumed to be from Lovochkin to Manafort detailing plans for the questionable privatisation of a Ukrainian telecoms company

Ukrtelecom was privatised in 2011 via a sale to the Lovochkin connected firm ESU, a subsidiary of Epic Telecom Limited. Epic In turn, Telecom Limited sold its subsidiary to SCM Financial Overseas Limited, a subsidiary of Systems Capital Management (SCM), a Ukrainian firm owned by Akhmetov. These elaborate transactions appear to have been a mechanism for selling the form to Akhmetov, who was once Yanukovych’s ally and described Manafort as a friend. Whether or not Manafort received a kickback via these deals is an open question.

The enigmatic JN may be Serhii Lovochkin

While the details of these transactions and subsequent litigation have been previously publicised, the phone hack taken as a whole gives a valuable insight into how Manafort and his Ukrainian contacts operated. He may have exported American political techniques to his oligarchic clients but he, in turn, became enmeshed in the patronage and terror which characterised Yanukovych’s entourage. So why was Wikileaks reluctant to publish the messages?

The Wikileaks account – widely believed to be controlled by Assange at the time – said they were focused on stories relating to the 2016 US Presidential election.
“We don’t have the resources,” they added.

But could there be another reason? Could it that both Assange and Manafort are both linked to Putin, and his campaign to subvert western democracy?

Assange met Dana Rohrabacher, widely regarded as one of Putin’s men in Washington, who boasts that he has known Manafort for decades, in 2018. Rohrabacher claims that Assange showed him proof that the leaks that Wikipeaks published during the 2016 campaign were not from Russia – but few people believe his testimony.

So what is the true nature of the relationship between Assange, Wikileaks, Manafort and Putin have in common?

One thing is certain, Assange needs to provide a far more robust explanation for his refusal to publish evidence of potential involvement in serious crimes. Because at the moment, it looks like he has something to hide.

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