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Putin's Ties to the Keystone XL Pipeline

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Putin's Ties to the Keystone XL Pipeline
Pipe for the Keystone XL Pipeline at Gascoyne pipe yard in North Dakota. Photo credit: Sabrina King / Dakota Rural Action

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"It was Abramovich who in the first place had recommended Putin to [Boris] Yeltsin as successor and Putin took his advice" when Putin was succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev, according to Sakwa, a professor at the University of Kent (UK).

Dmitry Skarga, former head of Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot, told BBC in its documentary, Putin's Secret Riches, that he personally oversaw the transfer of a yacht worth $35 million from Abramovich as a gift to Putin (see video below beginning at 12:28).

Today, Abramovich is perhaps best known as the owner of the English Premier League soccer team, Chelsea Football Club. Abramovich has a net worth of $9.2 billion and sits in 151st place among the world's wealthiest people, according to Forbes.

Abramovich and Fracking

In 2015, Abramovich also announced plans to invest $15 million in the company Propell Technologies Group, to do what OilPrice.com described as "'clean' hydraulic fracturing" or "fracking."

"This will not merely be a $15 million investment," a source with knowledge of the deal told OilPrice. "You have to read between the lines here. Abramovich doesn't do anything small. He'll get the infrastructure in place and then look to acquire a significant position in the U.S. oil sector at today's fire sale prices. We'll probably be looking at hundreds of millions in investment at the end of the day."

Operators use fracking to tap into North Dakota's Bakken Shale, the most productive oilfield in the U.S. TransCanada's presidential permit application submitted to the State Department says that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will also have a Bakken on-ramp called the Bakken Marketlink, which would feed the field's oil into the pipeline as a companion to the tar sands crude coming from Alberta, Canada.

Ivanka's Kinship

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, maintains her own ties to Abramovich. Ivanka's circle of friends includes Dasha Zhukova, the wife of Abramovich.

Jake Sherman, a reporter for Politico, tweeted that Zhukova attended Trump's presidential inauguration at the invitation of Ivanka. The two have appeared in public on several occasions, most recently during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which Ivanka attended with her husband and top Trump aide, Jared Kushner.

Also sitting with them in the stands at the U.S. Open was Zhukova's friend, model Karlie Kloss, who is dating Jared Kushner's brother, Joshua Kushner. Zhukova, as it turns out, was a donor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, giving $2,700 to the campaign and another $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee for its 2016 electoral efforts.

Zhukova's father is Alexander Zhukov, a Russian oil magnate.

"Pipe To Be Made"

Evraz owns three steel mills in the U.S., but the company chose to manufacture the pipe for the Keystone XL project in its Regina mill in Saskatchewan, Canada. By 2015, that mill had produced 550 miles of steel pipe for the line.

Though TransCanada's presidential permit application says nothing about where its steel will be (or has already been) manufactured, it does detail that the steel used for the pipeline will meet industry standards set by the American Petroleum Institute.

U.S. Department of State

While TransCanada has paid for the pipe already produced by Evraz, according to TransCanada spokesperson Terry Cunha, the continued construction of the Keystone XL pipeline could lead to even more profits for Abramovich's company, whether it manufactures the steel in its Canadian or U.S. factories.

Cunha told DeSmog that the company is waiting for final regulatory details from the U.S. Department of Commerce about how implementing the steel manufacturing executive order may impact Keystone XL's pipes. Commerce Department officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

When Obama nixed Keystone XL, Evraz issued a statement declaring its intent to stand by TransCanada for the long haul on the project.

"Like TransCanada, Evraz believes that Keystone XL is in the best interest of Americans and Canadians and we will support TransCanada's continuing efforts toward getting the pipeline built," the company said in November 2015. "We will also continue to work with pipeline partners on other pipeline projects in process across North America that will increase energy security and support economic vitality."

Bill Edwards, president of United Steelworkers union Local 5890—which represents 900 workers at the Regina facilit —told the British publication Metal Bulletin in November 2011 that the delay for Keystone XL had led to 250 job layoffs and shuttering of line pipe productions. Edwards said Evraz would continue production once TransCanada gets the needed permits.

"There is a bunch (of pipe) on the ground waiting to be installed. But there is still a pile (of pipe) to be made," Edwards told the Bulletin.

Evraz Lobbies Against "Buy America"

Perhaps an indication of Evraz's stance on the Trump steel executive order, Evraz lobbied in the first quarter of 2015 against what it called the "Buy America" amendment proposed by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for the Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S.1) of 2015 introduced by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND). The company also lobbied for "Amendments to U.S. Trade laws to improve steel industry enforcement."

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

Franken's amendment, which did not pass, was similar to Trump's order. It stated that "to the maximum extent consistent with the obligations of the United States under international trade agreements, none of the iron, steel or manufactured goods used in the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and facilities approved by this act may be produced outside of the United States."

Neither Evraz nor its lobbyist John Stinson provided a comment for this story, with Evraz pointing DeSmog to its Jan. 24 press statement.

"EVRAZ North America applauds the Trump administration for advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines," reads the statement. "As the North American leader in large diameter pipe production with assets in the United States and Canada, we look forward to working with our customers and the Administration to make these projects a reality."

Call for Investigation

Given a summary of DeSmog's findings, Tyson Slocum, energy program director for Public Citizen, a Washington, DC-based consumer watchdog and advocacy group, has called for an investigation.

"An investigation into communications between Trump and his administration and Abramovich and Russian Federation officials is needed to determine whether Trump's Keystone executive order was influenced by personal financial relationships," Slocum told DeSmog.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

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