New entrant in the Trump-Russia controversy: Rinat Akhmetshin

| Updated: Aug 23, 2017 11:20 IST

New York [U.S.A.], July 15 (ANI): It has been revealed that a U.S. citizen, lobbyist and former Soviet military officer, Rinat Akhmetshin attended a June 2016 meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer . Akhmetshin, who now promotes Kremlin-aligned interests in Washington, was present at the closed-door meeting in Trump Tower has drawn fresh scrutiny on the purpose of the meeting, which was pitched to Donald Trump Jr. as an opportunity to receive incriminating information from the Russian Government about Hillary Clinton. There were eight people in the room, including Trump Jr.; Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner; Trump's then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort; Akhmetshin; Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped set up the meeting; a translator; and a representative of the prominent Russian family who initiated the meeting. According to Trump Jr., the meeting was convened on the question of the Russian ban on Americans adopting children from Russia, a retaliatory measure Moscow put in place following the passage of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, the 2012 law that blacklisted some Russians for alleged human rights violations, CNN reported. Akhmetshin is a registered lobbyist for Veselnitskaya's organisation, which has focussed on lobbying Washington to overturn the Magnitsky sanctions, according to lobbying records. Akhmetshin denied being a spy working covertly in the U.S. on behalf of Moscow. Akhmetshin was born in the Soviet Union. He moved to the United States in 1994 and became a naturalised American citizen in 2009 and his history has been a source of intrigue for months. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has requested for more information about Akhmetshin immigration history in April as his committee investigated a complaint that Akhmetshin, Veselnitskaya and others engaged in undisclosed lobbying on behalf of the Kremlin to weaken the Magnitsky Act. The complaint was filed last year by American financier Bill Browder, whose company worked closely with Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky in the 2000s. Magnitsky uncovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme in Russia, was jailed, and later died in a Moscow prison under suspicious circumstances. U.S. lawmakers passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to punish the Russians allegedly responsible for his death. But Akhmetshin has categorically denied that characterisation of his experience, saying he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 as a draftee and his unit was serving in the Baltics and was "loosely part of counterintelligence," CNN reported. Akhmetshin maintained that he never worked for Russian military intelligence, or worked for the Russian government. But he acknowledged that his military unit was involved in "law enforcement issues" and "some counterintelligence matters." (ANI)