Speculation about Donald Trump’s links to Russia is intensifying as claims emerge that one of his top advisors took millions of dollars from a former Russian-backed Ukrainian president.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Mr Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly received $A16.44 million of “off the books” payments while employed to advise then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in his former job.
Mr Yanukovych was the pro-Russian Ukraine president who fled his nation following protests in November 2013. Russia then annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in late 2015.
Mr Manafort has categorically denied taking secret payments from the Ukrainian government at the time.
The ledger allegedly listing the payments was handwritten and was uncovered by Ukraine’s newly formed “National Anti-Corruption Bureau”, the report claimed.
Speculation is rising about Mr Trump’s links to Russia as the race for the White House intensifies ahead of the November US election.
The allegations about Mr Manafort come after Mr Trump has been questioned over links to Russia which included business interests, his daughter (Ivanka) and wife (Melania) and his “friendship” with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Trump and Putin
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Mr Trump said about Mr Putin when asked about reports of the Russian president killing political dissidents.
Mr Putin then described Mr Trump as a “bright and talented person”, which prompted this response from Trump’s spokesperson: “It is always so great to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
According to ABC News, Mr Trump has stated three times between 2013 and 2015 that he had never met or spoken to Mr Putin.
But in 2014 at the US National Press Club, Mr Trump said: “I was in Moscow recently, and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
Mr Trump’s wife, Melania was born in Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was part of the eastern communist bloc, which was aligned with the Soviet Union.
And then there is Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who was recently spotted hanging out with Mr Putin’s new rumoured “girlfriend”, Wendy Deng in Croatia.
Ms Deng, who was recently married to Rupert Murdoch, is reportedly long-time friends with Ivanka Trump.
A photo posted by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on
Business in Russia
The Washington Post conducted an investigation into the “30 year history” of Trump’s business dealings in Russia.
Trump has had his associates sell apartments to Russian investors and he sold a Palm Beach mansion for $A122 million to a Russian oligarch among other dealings, the report found.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Mr Trump’s son Donald Jnr told a real estate conference in 2008, according to the Washington Post. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Meantime, Carter Page, one of Mr Trump’s foreign policy advisors, once advised Gazprom. Gazprom is Russia’s long-time state-run energy corporation.
Mr Trump has also spoken out about NATO, saying that he doesn’t necessarily favour conducting foreign relations through the organisation.
Working with NATO has traditionally been favoured by the US, but working less with NATO would favour Russia, which reportedly feels bound by the treaty.