Pavel Fuchs, a Ukrainian oligarch who negotiated with Donald Trump and reportedly works with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, stands accused of making a threat of violence against a US-based businessman involved in selling him seats to the 45th US president’s inauguration.
The gas and real estate tycoon was furious that two tickets he purchased for $200,000 left him and a Ukrainian member of parliament with bad seats, according to two well-placed sources speaking to Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, a Ukrainian newspaper editor and other journalists.
Fuchs allegedly warned the businessman who facilitated the purchase that he wanted his money back, and if he did not get it, he would “tear him apart”.
It’s alleged he then issued a series of threats to others involved in the deal.
The tycoon featured in the Al Jazeera investigation The Oligarchs, which aired in January 2018 and revealed the tycoon has at least a 10-year relationship with Trump and his son, Don Jr.
Then a leading Russian real-estate figure, he held talks with the Trumps between 2008 and 2010 about constructing a Trump Tower in Moscow, which was never developed.
The presence of at least a dozen Ukrainian politicians and business figures, some of whom have close links to Russia, at the January 20, 2017, inauguration attracted interest from US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to the New York Times.
The report said some of the Ukrainian guests were “promoting grand bargains or peace plans” aligned with the Kremlin’s interests.
Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and the newspaper said US federal prosecutors have begun a number of other inquiries related to the Ukrainians at the inauguration.
Fuchs, who was among them, tried to re-enter the US in December 2017, but was detained and deported by US border officials who revoked his visa, according to several sources.
The oligarch, who owns property in New York and Miami, later claimed he had been the victim of an administrative error.
It is not clear why agents refused to admit the Ukrainian, who emigrated from Russia in 2015.
US officials were not immediately available for comment on whether their decision was related to the alleged threats or to his wider business activities, which have drawn the attention of Ukrainian authorities.
Just found another photo of Pavel Fuchs / Fuks with Rudy Giuliani from his Russian wikipedia page. Says they met in July 2017 in New York, most likely at RG’s office. https://t.co/p7s0maCM0V pic.twitter.com/N4gWYMKF08
— Will Jordan (@willjordan) January 29, 2018
Al Jazeera investigation
The year-long Al Jazeera investigation into Eastern European oligarchs described Fuchs’s role in purchasing $160m of frozen assets deemed to have been stolen from the Ukrainian state.
As Al Jazeera reported at the time, the evidence suggested the seller was a fugitive Ukrainian businessman close to the pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovich.
The businessman and the president were among those who fled at the height of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution in 2014, with Yanukovich now widely reported to be under Russian government protection.
More recently, Fuchs has been photographed with Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, in both New York and Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv.
The former New York mayor’s security consulting business, Giuliani Security and Safety, is said to be providing advice on improving Kharkiv’s emergency services.
Kharkiv’s residents are divided between those who are pro-Western and those who support the Russian government. Four years ago, the city nearly turned into a Russian-backed separatist enclave.
Fuchs is reported to be working directly with Giuliani to set up a Kharkiv investment office in the United States.
In mid-November last year, Fuchs was also allegedly refused entry to Israel.
In recent days, a Ukrainian politician reported the business figure had been detained and deported from Mexico, where he arrived by private jet with another legislator.
The oligarch has refuted the story, posting a video of himself in what appears to be Mexico and giving the finger to the “fat pig” who first reported he had not entered the country.
“This is a fake,” he said. “I’m in Mexico. Here are the Mexicans, so there are no questions.”
He later issued a statement in which he accused the person who first published the story, former legislator and businessman Mikhail Brodsky, of publishing “fake news”.
“Perhaps, this was done for the purpose of further extortion of money,” he wrote.
Born in Kharkiv in 1971, Fuchs earned the nickname “Mercenary” from his associates, according to restricted Russian interior ministry records.
He built a network of businessmen close to ex-Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who was later accused by Russian authorities of presiding over the loss of five billion dollars from city coffers.
The former mayor denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations “political bullying”.
During Luzhkov’s tenure, Fuchs made hundreds of millions of dollars from real estate and led the development of a new financial district which today dominates the skyline.
The Moscow City complex has been beset with financial difficulties since its main financier, Kazakh billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov, was charged over an unrelated six-billion-dollar fraud case, which continues.
During a tour of one of his developments, Fuchs told Russian television that when he was young, he beat people up. “I don’t like it when someone lies to me.”
He recounts a story about his Turkish builders. “While refurbishing, I told them not to smoke, but when I arrived they were smoking. I asked them again not to smoke.”
“And they continued smoking?” asks the presenter.
“Yes, and they had to eat their cigarette butts,” Fuchs replies.
“How beautiful,” remarks the presenter, sarcastically.
Amid rumours of commercial disputes, the real estate tycoon fled Moscow in 2015 and resettled in Ukraine. He has now been placed under sanctions by the Russian government and cannot enter the country.
Despite a formal dispute with Russia, many in Ukraine suspect Fuchs of secretly operating with the consent of the Kremlin.
After the overthrow of Yanukovich, Ukraine’s pro-Western government has been involved in a low-level, ongoing military conflict with Russia.
There are several enclaves in the east of the country that are controlled by Russian troops and Ukrainians who support the Kremlin.
Since Fuchs’s arrival in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, he has forged strong links with powerful politicians and accumulated assets previously owned by politicians and businessman close to Yanukovich.
He has become a leading figure in the gas industry, owning the second-highest number of extraction permits, according to ANTAC, an anti-corruption campaign group.
In August, following the release of Al Jazeera’s documentary, Fuchs was questioned by Ukrainian prosecutors.
Their case focused on whether he or others had been involved in “assisting the unidentified persons of a criminal organisation” in compromising the seizure of the $1.5bn deemed stolen by former President Yanukovich.
No charges have been brought so far.
Neither Fuchs nor a spokesperson for Giuliani responded to requests for comment.
UK spy chief warns China, Russia racing to master AI
MI6 chief Richard Moore says Beijing and Moscow ‘pouring money’ into technological advances that will reshape espionage and geopolitics.The chief of the United Kingdom’s foreign spy service is to warn that China and Russia are racing to master artificial intelligence in a way that could revolutionise geopolitics over the next 10 years. Richard Moore, who…
MI6 chief Richard Moore says Beijing and Moscow ‘pouring money’
into technological advances that will reshape espionage and geopolitics.The chief of the United Kingdom’s foreign spy service is to warn that China and Russia are racing to master artificial intelligence in a way that could revolutionise geopolitics over the next 10 years.
Richard Moore, who heads the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, is due to make his first public speech since becoming chief of the organisation on Tuesday.
In extracts of the speech released in advance by the British government he will say quantum engineering, engineered biology, vast troves of data and advances in computer power pose a threat that needs to be addressed by democratic powers.
“Our adversaries are pouring money and ambition into mastering artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology, because they know that mastering these technologies will give them leverage,” Moore, who rarely makes public speeches, will say when he sets out his view of current threats.
The world’s spies are trying to grapple with seismic advances in technology that are challenging traditional human-led spying operations, which have dominated espionage for thousands of years.
Moore, a former diplomat, became MI6 chief in October 2020.
Speaking at the Institute for International and Strategic Studies think tank, he will stress that technological progress over the next decade could outstrip all the tech advances made over the past century.
“As a society, we have yet to internalise this stark fact and its potential impact on global geopolitics. But it is a white-hot focus for MI6,” he will say.
Of particular concern to the spies in the world’s liberal democracies are Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies, which have rushed to harness the power of a range of sophisticated technologies, sometimes at a faster pace than in the West.
Western intelligence agencies fear Beijing could dominate all key emerging technologies within decades, particularly artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics.
China’s economic and military rise over the past 40 years is considered one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, which ended the Cold War.
MI6, depicted by novelists as the employer of some of the most memorable fictional spies from John le Carré’s George Smiley to Ian Fleming’s James Bond, operates overseas and is tasked with defending the UK and its interests.
Moore says the service will have to give up some of its deep-rooted secrecy and work with technology firms to combat the rapidly developing threats.
MI6 and western intelligence agencies will have to “become more open to stay secret” in a world of destabilising technological change, he will say.
“We cannot hope to replicate the global tech industry, so we must tap into it.”
The agency has become more open in recent years, even allowing publication of an authorised history although it only covers the period up until 1949.
MI6 began publicly naming its chief, who uses the code name C and is the only publicly identifiable member of the organisation, in the 1990s.
Pentagon to review deadly 2019 US bombings in Syria
US will look into whether procedures were followed after NY Times reported dozens of civilians were killed in bombings.United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered a review into US military bombings in Syria in March 2019 that the New York Times recently reported killed dozens of civilians during the battle for the final…
US will look into whether procedures were followed after NY Times reported dozens of civilians were killed in bombings.United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered a review into US military bombings in Syria in March 2019 that the New York Times recently reported killed dozens of civilians during the battle for the final stronghold of ISIL (ISIS).
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby announced the probe on Monday, saying it would be led by General Michael Garrett, the head of US Army Forces Command.
Earlier this month, the US military acknowledged that civilians may have been killed in the bombings in Baghouz, near the Iraqi border in 2019. At the time, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were leading the fight on the ground with American air support.
“Likely a majority of those killed were also combatants at the time of the strike. However, it is also highly likely that there were additional civilian casualties,” Bill Urban, a US military spokesman, said in a statement on November 14.
He added that “investigations were unable to conclusively characterize the status of more than 60 other casualties that resulted from these strikes”.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the review into the 2019 US military bombings, the Pentagon spokesman announced [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]Urban’s statement came a day after the New York Times, citing anonymous sources and classified documents, published a report that accused the US military of concealing the bombings.
The newspaper reported that the bombing struck a “crowd of women and children”, killing 64 people.
“Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet streaked across the drone’s high-definition field of vision and dropped a 500-pound bomb on the crowd, swallowing it in a shuddering blast. As the smoke cleared, a few people stumbled away in search of cover. Then a jet tracking them dropped one 2,000-pound bomb, then another, killing most of the survivors,” the Times wrote.
On Monday, Kirby said the review would look into “record keeping and reporting procedures” and “whether mitigation measures identified in previous investigations into the incident were in fact implemented effectively”.
The probe, which is due in 90 days, will also assess whether “accountability measures” will be appropriate, Kirby added.
The US-led coalition started a bombing campaign against the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq in 2014, and the American military maintains troops in both countries with the stated goal of preventing the group’s resurgence.
Former US President Donald Trump touted the territorial defeat of ISIL (ISIS) as a major policy achievement in his failed 2020 re-election bid.
Rights groups previously accused the US-led coalition of killing civilians during their bombing campaign. A 2019 investigation by Amnesty International, for instance, found that the coalition had killed 1,600 civilians in Raqqa, the ISIL (ISIS) group’s former de-facto capital.
The Associated Press news agency reported on Monday that after the New York Times story was published, Austin received a briefing on the Syria bombings from General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command.
AP reported that McKenzie’s command said “an initial investigation concluded that the strike constituted legitimate self-defence in support of Syrian partner forces under fire from ISIL”.
The probe into the Syria bombings comes after the Pentagon admitted in September that a US drone attack previously described as “righteous” by a top general had killed 10 civilians, including children, in Kabul during the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But a subsequent internal review by the Pentagon concluded that the bombing did not violate the laws of war or amount to criminal conduct or negligence, prompting outrage.
Arab Coalition carries out 15 strikes against Houthi militants in Marib
JEDDAH: An influential watchdog body of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine as the only way to stop ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians. The OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission made its appeal on Monday to coincide with the UN-run International Day of Solidarity with…
JEDDAH: An influential watchdog body of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine as the only way to stop ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians.
The OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission made its appeal on Monday to coincide with the UN-run International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People 2021.
In a statement, the IPHRC pointed out that the solidarity day highlighted the urgent need for the global community to recognize the inalienable right to self-determination of Palestinian people.
“Today is not only an opportunity for the international community to remember that the question of Palestine remains unresolved, but it is also an opportunity to focus attention on the increasing suffering of the Palestinian people, under the Israeli occupation, and to unify all efforts for assisting them to attain their fundamental rights, including the right to self-determination and the right to return for Palestinian refugees to their homes and property, from which they have been displaced,” the commission said.
It also expressed grave concerns over the increasing, “range of violations committed by Israel … particularly the recent draconian measures against Palestinian prisoners and detainees as well as the harassment of Sheikh Jarrah (neighborhood of East Jerusalem) families who remain under the threat of eviction from their houses under baseless and illegal arguments.”
The IPHRC statement urged all human rights groups to raise awareness of what it described as “egregious human rights violations” aimed at “separating Al-Quds (Jerusalem) from its original inhabitants, which is yet another vicious attack on the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.”
In addition, commission members condemned the recent Israeli designation of six Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations, a move the IPHRC claimed represented Israel’s misuse of counterterrorism and security legislation to silence opponents and innocent Palestinians.
Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes and forced evictions of residents in Jerusalem and other areas was also slammed by the commission.
It added that there was a “need to investigate these abuses by relevant international mechanisms with a view to holding Israel, the occupying power, accountable for violating international human rights and humanitarian laws.”