Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reportedly bankrolled his mistress’s travel abroad with him on official diplomatic trips to almost two dozen countries around the world, according to a new bombshell report from Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny’s team. The report, entitled “Yachts, bribes and a mistress. What Minister Lavrov is hiding,” details a plethora of luxury digs and yachts enjoyed by the couple, including a yacht owned by the notorious oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which has been graced by the likes of Belarusian model Anastasia Vashukevich, better known by her pseudonym Nastya Rybka.
Lavrov, 71, is married and has a daughter. His alleged female companion, Svetlana Polyakova, is an actress and a restaurateur, with no known qualifications that would justify her apparent affiliation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Property records unearthed by reporters show that Polyakova and members of her family own real estate in Russia and the U.K. worth about 1 billion rubles ($13.6 million), as well as a fleet of luxury cars worth a total of about 40 million rubles ($545,000).
The Navalny team’s Thursday report was a follow-up to an investigation released earlier this week by iStories, an independent Russia-focused investigative news outlet. Based on information provided by sources within the Foreign Ministry, the outlet found that Polyakova’s relationship with Lavrov is reportedly so close that her friends listed her contact information as “Svetlana Lavrova.” She participated in public events alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and was included in the elite entourage allowed to be in his presence.
The investigation by Navalny’s team alleges that over the past seven years, Polyakova has used the foreign minister’s official plane on at least 60 occasions. Among other countries, she reportedly traveled with Lavrov to France, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, and Greece. Polyakova’s mother, daughter, and even her niece accompanied her on some of those official “diplomatic” escapades.
According to information obtained by iStories from confidential sources, Polyakova wields considerable influence within the Foreign Ministry, reportedly appointing several close friends to key positions. Officials who opposed these appointments were reportedly forced to resign, and one of them disclosed that information to reporters. Russia’s Foreign Ministry simply ignored requests for comments from iStories.
The secretive nature of Polyakova’s relationship with Lavrov was blown wide open when Navalny’s investigative team expounded on the iStories report, corroborating it with additional juicy disclosures. As they say, loose lips sink ships. Or, perhaps in this instance, yachts. Polyakova’s 26-year-old daughter, Polina, appears to have put the trips on full display on her Instagram account, which was made private after Thursday’s bombshell report and later deactivated.
Polina’s social-media posts revealed one of the most disturbing aspects of this sordid family affair. They show that along with her family, Polyakova has been lounging at the villa, hotel, and yacht owned by Deripaska. The yacht became famous when Nastya Rybka surreptitiously filmed conversations that took place there between Deripaska and Sergei Prikhodko, Russia’s ex-deputy prime minister. Rybka posted abbreviated clips on her social media and claimed that she had additional videos that could prove the Kremlin’s interference in U.S. elections, but never followed through. The same vessel is now at the center of another controversy.
The Navalny team’s report essentially indicates that Lavrov acted as Deripaska’s private lobbyist, flying all over the world to aid in his private affairs: from boosting his efforts to obtain a U.S. visa, to aiding his business affairs in Guinea, Jamaica and Sweden. Deripaska’s considerable wealth could certainly justify the lavish lifestyle of the foreign minister and his alleged second “family,” including their frequent use of Deripaska’s private planes. Polina went so far as to describe one of Deripaska’s villas as her “second home.” It’s a case of “mi casa, su casa” on a global scale.
During Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s daily briefing on Thursday, Anastasia Melnikova of the digital media outlet Znak asked about the recent allegations against Lavrov, including the foreign trips with his alleged mistress and her relatives. Zakharova seemed to be rattled by the question. She squirmed, grimaced, and chuckled while listening to the reporter’s inquiry.
Zakharova neither denied nor confirmed the report. Instead, she attempted to impugn the motivations of the team behind the shocking revelations.
“Well, what can I say. First, the creators of these pseudo-investigations don’t hide their goals: to destroy and demolish… they’re all feeding on foreign grants. Their information campaigns are supported and overseen by intelligence agencies of those countries that call Russia their enemy,” the spokeswoman said. “Secondly, all of this is done according to Goebbels: take a little bit of truth, add some lies and present it as the reality… Thirdly: even the most malicious opponents don’t doubt Lavrov’s professionalism. His authority is unshakable. His authority is simply undisputable.”
This was the last question taken by Zakharova, who gathered her papers and promptly left the podium.