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Ukrainian businessman Medvedchuk and his Belarusian connections
Vladimir Putin, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Viktor Medvedchuk at a meeting in St. Petersburg
Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk is often called "Putin's cousin," and this is no exaggeration. The Russian president is the godfather of the Ukrainian oligarch's daughter. They have a warm relationship: they often meet, and in Ukraine Medvedchuk actively advocates for Russia. He says that the war in Donbas is not Moscow's fault and that it is necessary to reach an agreement with Russia as soon as possible.
Medvedchuk has close ties not only with the Russian authorities. Victor Medvedchuk and his partner have money in Belarusian banks controlled by business associates of Lukashenka, Alyaksei Aleksin and Mikalay Varabey. Euroradio looked into their business connections.
Ukrainian Millions in Belarusian Banks
At the end of 2018, there were just over 31 million rubles of clients' funds in the Belarusian Absolutbank. That was 80 times less than what Belgazprombank had and 17 times less than Tekhnobank did. In general, it was not the wealthiest bank.
But in the spring of 2020, Absolutbank already had more than 117 million rubles in customer funds. The growth occurred in 2019.
Coincidentally, it was in his 2019 declaration that Viktor Medvedchuk indicated that he kept his money in this Belarusian bank, among other places.
Medvedchuk indicated that in 2019 he kept more than 4.8 million euros and 24 thousand Russian rubles in Absolutbank. There could be more of his money in the Belarusian bank: the declaration does not indicate the place of storage of another $210,000 of Medvedchuk's money and $1.8 million belonging to his wife. They fall under the "cash" category.
Medvedchuk's tax declaration for 2020 has not yet been published, but one can assume that the size of the "stash" in Absolut Bank has not changed much. In any case, there is no marked increase or rapid decline in the reports on the bank clients' funds.
The "stash" of 13 million euros
Ukrainian MP Taras Kozak is called the formal owner of Medvedchuk's media assets - TV channels 112, News One, and ZIK. In early February, their broadcasting was banned by Volodymyr Zelensky. His 2019 tax declaration also mentions Belarusian banks.
In 2019 Kozak kept 6.6 million euros in the Absolutbank. At the same time, Kozak and his family members could theoretically have other accounts at the bank.
Kozak also kept 1.4 million euros in another Belarusian bank, MTBank. There may be other accounts, the details of which are not disclosed.
Thus, the minimum "stash" of the main pro-Russian deputies from Ukraine in the Belarusian banks comes close to 13 million euros. Taking into account the undisclosed data and accounts of relatives, as well as the sharp increase in funds of Absolutbank clients, it can be assumed that the amounts are more impressive.
It was through Belarusian banks that Kozak made deals to buy Medvedchuk's media empire.
Meetings with Lukashenka
Viktor Medvedchuk had a break in public politics, but in 2019 he "rejoined the ranks" and became an MP in the early elections to the Verkhovna Rada. It is from this time that he has been obliged to publish his tax declarations.
We can assume that Medvedchuk was preparing for such a development. In 2019, Alyaksandr Lukashenka held three (!) public meetings with Medvedchuk, even though there had never been such meetings before. They were in contact at least in January, April, and July of this year - just when Medvedchuk was preparing to be elected to parliament and probably was withdrawing funds to Belarus.
What caused such an unusual choice of banks to hold assets? Let's look at the owners of Absolutbank and MTBank.
MTBank belongs to the family of businessman Alyaksei Aleksin, a representative of Lukashenka's inner circle. Analyzing the possible inflow of Medvedchuk and Kozak's funds into it is problematic because its financial indicators, unlike Absolutbank, have always been impressive.
Absolut Bank is owned by Aleksin's longtime partner Mikalay Varabey. At the end of 2020, after he was put on the EU sanctions list, he registered his shares to his subordinates. But has the ultimate beneficiary of the business changed?
Aleksin and Varabey are associated with such companies as Interservice and Bremino Group. Both businessmen trade light oil products with Ukraine.
It's all about oil
For example, in late 2015, the Ukrainian media reported that Aleksin's Energo Oil was involved in a scheme to supply Russian "diesel" with Belarusian certificates to the Ukrainian market. Interservice was suspected of doing the same.
In 2019, Varabey bought a controlling stake in the Ukrainian Prykarpat-Zapadtrans pipeline. After the war in Donbas started, it was transferred from the Russian company Transneft to companies affiliated with Medvedchuk and Kozak.
Light oil products are one of the main lines of Belarusian exports to Ukraine, especially against the backdrop of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Selling diesel to companies that have nothing against it because they are associated with Medvedchuk is a troublesome but very profitable business. Especially if that diesel is Russian.