Russian oligarchs hire US lobbyists to protect themselves from sanctions

Russian billionaires Alexander Skorobogatko and Alexander Ponomarenko have hired professional lobbyists in the US after they were included in the US Department of Treasury’s “Kremlin list” this past January. A corresponding notice from the lobby firm Qorvis MSLGROUP appeared last week in a special US Senate database.

The services that the company will provide to the Russian businessmen are rather abstract: "business interests [on behalf of Skorobogatko and Ponomarenko] and relations with the United States."

The businessmen enlisted the support of the lobbyists as individuals, but in the database listing’s address field Qorvis MSLGROUP wrote the location of the company TPS Property, which is owned by the holding company TPS Real Estate. TPS Real Estate’s beneficiaries, besides Skorobogtko and Ponomarenko, also include Igor Rotenberg, who was included the US Treasury Department’s Sanctions List on April 6.

The “Kremlin list”, which includes Skorobogatko and Ponomarenko, may be used to prepare sanctions against Russian oligarchs. On April 6, the US imposed the first round of sanctions against those included in the report: Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg, Suleyman Kerimov, Andrei Skoch, Kirill Shamalov and Vladimir Bogdanov. The United States announced the new sanctions against Russia last week; however, President Donald Trump postponed their enactment date.

Matt Lauer, who worked for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy at the US Department of State in the early 2000s, will be representing the lobbying interests of Skorobogatko and Ponomarenko. Grace Fenstermaker will be representing the two businessmen as well. These same Qorvis MSLGROUP employees also represent the interests of the Yamal LNG project, which is controlled by NOVATEK.

 Skorobogatko and Ponomarenko are not the first "Kremlin list" businessmen to try to hire American lobbyists. RBC news agency reported in March that the owner of the alcoholic beverage company SPI Group, Yury Shefler, and the co-owner of the technology company IPG Photonics, Valentin Gapontsev, also reached out to American lobbying firms in order to understand how their businesses would be impacted by inclusion on the list.

  Russian oligarchs, Sanctions on Russia, USA, US lobbyists