The former head Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters, Paul Manafort, had connections with Russian businessman, Oleg Deripaska, however they were of an "exclusively commercial nature," said Russian Presidential Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, as reported by RIA Novosti. "They were not somehow connected with the Kremlin or with officials in Moscow. We even heard that Manafort and Deripaska had disputes that were resolved in court, but we in the Kremlin do not know any details, and President Putin does not know them either," Peskov emphasized.
Additionally, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin called the accusations against US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, in connection with Russian companies ‘absurd.’ "It has nothing to do with either the Russian president, the government, or the administration," he said, adding that "at the official level" Russia did not know anything about Ross's contacts. Because of this, the accusations against Putin are "absolutely inappropriate," Peskov added.
In March, the AP, citing sources familiar with the details of the agreement between Manafort and Deripaska, reported about the agreement between them, signed in 2006, according to which Manafort received $10 million a year. The businessman accused the agency of libel and sued them in the US, demanding compensation in the amount of $75,000, but the court rejected the claim in October. Deripaska's representative then confirmed that Manafort provided consulting services to the Russian businessman.
On August 31st, The Wall Street Journal published an article about the contacts between an employee of Manafort’s consulting firm with Deripaska’s associates. These contacts, the article says, concerned projects in Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro, which "met the interests of Russia." A representative of a Russian businessman declined to comment to RBC news agency on the WSJ information. Finally, in mid-October, the American television network NBC reported that the company associated with Manafort received several loans from Deripaska and in ten years the total sum of transactions between them amounted to $60 million.
On October 30th, Manafort was formally charged with lobbying for foreign interests without registering as a foreign agent, money laundering, and tax evasion. These accusations are not related to possible interference by Russia in the election of the US President in 2016.
The Secretary of Commerce's relations with Russian businesses became known based on publications by the International Consortium of Journalistic Investigations (ICIJ). Consortium journalists familiarized themselves with more than 13 million documents from the Bermuda law firm, Appleby, which indicated that Wilbur Ross owns shares of the shipping company, Navigator Holdings Ltd, which signed contracts with the Russian petrochemical holding, Sibur. ICIJ listed members of the Putin’s inner circle as the beneficiaries of Sibur including, Leonid Mikhelson, Gennady Timchenko, Kirill Shamalov.