Top adviser and Blair’s former right-hand man has history of toadying to Russian leader, as well as wider Russian links – and he’s only one of Starmer’s advisers to have form on Russia that hasn’t aged well
Keir Starmer’s act – once again giving his full backing to Boris Johnson in yet another ‘we support the government‘ moment – has been called his ‘Start the war’ campaign, with Labour’s notional leader keen to burnish his anti-Russia credentials during yesterday’s Commons session and since.
But the fact that Tony Blair’s right-hand man is still his chief adviser makes a mockery of Starmer’s posturing. Peter Mandelson’s closeness to Russian oligarch leg Deripaska is well known, particularly because of embarrassing photos of Mandelson on Deripaska’s yacht when Mandelson was European Trade Commissioner – and the fact that in that role Mandelson had twice cut aluminium import tariffs, benefiting Deripaska’s company, despite Mandelson’s denial that there was any link.
But Mandelson also has strong links with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president with whom Keir Starmer is now at least posturing as seeking confrontation. In 2013, Mandelson publicly stated that Vladimir Putin was taking Russia ‘in the right direction’ – and in 2017 he was revealed to have interceded with Putin on behalf of a Russian firm that had paid Mandelson a huge amount of cash to work for it:
And Mandelson’s links with Russia go far beyond just Deripaska and Putin. The company for which Mandelson interceded, Sistema, represents just one branch of Mandelson’s deep roots among the Russian elites. According to a 2014 Daily Mail article Global Counsel, the firm Mandelson co-founded and chairs, has close links with at least 25 people and businesses tied to Russia:
Our research reveals that at least 25 of them work for oligarchs, their firms or the Putin regime. A further 27 are either based in Russia or work for the Russian divisions of international companies. The former category includes three Putin appointees.
They are Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10 billion Kremlin-run equity fund; Denis Morozov, whom Putin personally hired in 2011 to represent the Russian Federation at the European Bank For Reconstruction And Development; and Alexander Losyukov, deputy director-general of Rusnano, the Russian state-owned tech company…
Dmitriev and Losyukov did not respond to a request for comment about the nature of their relationship with Global Counsel. Morozov denied being a paying client of the firm.
The latter category includes heads of Russian operations for everyone from City firms HBSC, PWC and KPMG to law companies such as Linklaters.
These are the contacts on which Mandelson’s business empire is built. And, for the first category, their wealth and influence can often be traced directly back to the Kremlin…
Take also Oleg Mukhamedshin, the deputy chief executive of Rusal, the aluminium giant founded by Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich and now controlled by steel oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Mr Mukhamedshin features prominently on the list, but did not respond to inquiries yesterday. However, Mandelson has a long-standing and contentious relationship with Rusal…
Elsewhere, the ‘clients and network’ list contains several powerful London-based Russians, including staff at the country’s embassy (why they should be part of this circle is anyone’s guess), and Paolo Zaniboni, who heads the UK arm of Russian investment bank Troika Dialog.
Since 2011, Trokia Dailog has been owned by OAO Sberbank, a Russian state-owned bank run by German Gref, who — surprise! — turns out to have been Putin’s trade minister from 2000 to 2007.
Then there are the men and women on the payroll of oligarchs, several of whom feature prominently on Global Counsel’s ‘client and network’ list…
Many Starmer critics have questioned why Mandelson was appointed and has been kept on as an adviser despite his documented links to the deceased child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, especially after Epstein’s accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted late last year.
But now the question has to be asked: how seriously can Starmer’s ‘hawkish’ pose toward Russia be taken when a man with such deep links to the Russian regime and elites stands so close – and if he does mean it, how can he and his judgment be taken seriously while Mandelson remains at his elbow?
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