According to newly-leaked documents disclosed in the “Paradise Papers,” the Russian government invested millions into a massive propaganda campaign on Twitter and Facebook during the 2016 presidential election through a business associate of President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The money was invested through Yuri Milner, a Russian-American billionaire tech investor who is also associated with Jared Kushner the documents show.
While Milner sold his holdings in both companies, the revelations bear significance because, as one expert put it, “Kremlin-connected institutions make investments with strategic interests in mind.”
Milner currently holds a stake in a real-estate project that was founded and is owned by Kushner. When Kushner first joined the Trump administration, he failed to disclose his holdings in the project.
Russia’s state-owned VTB Bank gave Milner $191 million to invest in Twitter, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained the Paradise Papers. The bank, according to The New York Times, frequently embarks on “politically strategic deals.”
Documents also show that Gazprom Investholding, the financial arm of the Russian state-operated energy firm Gazprom, backed a company affiliated with Milner which owned approximately $1 billion in Facebook stock shortly before it went public in 2012.
Gazprom is one of Russia’s largest energy companies and Putin is said to wield significant influence over the firm, which is stacked with the Russian leader’s allies and associates.
When all was said and done, Milner owned roughly 8% of Facebook and 5% of Twitter, according to The Times.
Facebook and Twitter have taken center stage in recent weeks, particularly after it emerged in September that Russian “trolls” used the platforms to organize divisive rallies and spread misinformation to sow discord among the American public leading up to the election. Last week, lawyers representing the two companies and Google testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees about Russia’s election meddling.
As part of their investigation into Russia’s interference, congressional intelligence committees and the FBI are also looking into whether the Russians had help from any members of the Trump campaign. Brad Parscale, who served as the campaign’s digital director, testified before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session in late October.
Kushner, who managed the campaign’s data operation along with Parscale, is also a subject of interest to the committees and to special counsel Robert Mueller.
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