A Russian-American dual citizen who found himself at the center of allegations of Kremlin meddling in the 2016 presidential election has established a new nonprofit to combat the political vilification of his erstwhile countrymen.
Rinat Akhmetshin is a Washington-based lobbyist and former Soviet military officer whose 2016 meeting with Trump campaign hands including the president’s son and son-in-law was a major subject of interest for investigators into Russian election meddling. Last week, he officially incorporated the nonprofit Russian-American Anti-Defamation League, according to District of Columbia corporate records.
The nonprofit’s specific plans weren’t immediately clear. Neither Akhmetshin nor his attorney responded to requests for comment. But the group’s formation comes as Akhmetshin tries to sustain legal action against a prominent Kremlin critic who dubbed him a Russian spy, allegations that caught fire after Akhmetshin’s June 2016 meeting with top Trump campaign aides came to light the following year.
Akhmetshin formed the Russian-American Anti-Defamation League on January 16, according to D.C. corporate records. The group is headquartered at his Washington home.
The group’s formation came a couple of months after Akhmetshin appealed a federal court’s dismissal of his libel case against Bill Browder, a businessman who has spearheaded campaigns around the globe to sanction corrupt Russian government officials. Browder labeled Akhmetshin a “Russian intelligence asset" and "a Russian GRU officer" in a number of tweets that Akhmetshin alleges were defamatory. He sued in 2018 in a federal court in Washington. The suit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds last year. Akhmetshin’s appeal is currently pending.
Akhmetshin played a significant role in the controversy surrounding Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and the investigation into Trump campaign knowledge or solicitation of it. He was one of two Russian nationals who met with Trump aides including Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. in the summer of 2016 after promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent.
After the Mueller probe concluded, and found no proof of Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government, Akhmetshin told ABC News that the affair had “hit me hard financially and led to baseless personal attacks.”
After his Trump Tower meeting came to light, The New York Times reported that Akhmetshin “has an association with a former deputy head of a Russian spy service, the F.S.B., and a history of working for close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin.” Last year, BuzzFeed News reported that financial investigators had flagged a number of suspicious payments to Akhmetshin around the time of the Trump Tower meeting.
Akhmetshin and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the other Russian who attended the Trump Tower meeting, also worked with the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig into Browder’s business activities in Russia on behalf of a sanctioned Russian company. That work coincided with Fusion’s efforts to dig up dirt on Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Last year, Akhmetshin was paid $60,000 to assist with lobbying efforts on behalf of a former Kazakh government official accused of defrauding the country out of millions.