“Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer,” the report said. Manafort’s willingness to share information with Kilimnik and other people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, it added, “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”
A lawyer for Manafort has declined to comment.
Who is Konstantin Kilimnik?
The 50-year-old Kilimnik was Manafort’s right-hand man in Ukraine — “Manafort’s Manafort,” as many in Kyiv described him.
He started out in the mid-2000s as Manafort’s primary interpreter, when the American political consultant was hired to run the political campaigns of Viktor Yanukovych, a tough, Kremlin-linked politician from eastern Ukraine.
Kilimnik rose to run Manafort’s operations in Ukraine after Manafort helped Yanukovych win the presidency in 2010. When Yanukovych fled the country following a pro-Western revolution in 2014, Manafort and Kilimnik continued to work with pro-Russian Ukrainian parties and politicians.
Kilimnik was also the main contact with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, with whom Manafort had business dealings, the report said. Kilimnik served as a liaison between the two men, and their relationship continued during the U.S. presidential elections, according to the report.
Kilimnik was born in Ukraine but attended a military language institute in Moscow from 1987 to 1992 during the collapse of the Soviet Union. The institute was linked to the Russian military intelligence agency, or GRU, but he has always denied any connection to the intelligence services. He reportedly now resides in Moscow and did not make any public comments after the report’s release.
What is new in the Senate report?
Much of what the report says about Kilimnik has previously been touched upon or mentioned briefly during political investigations and in media reports.
What’s new here is the level of detail. Kilimnik’s name appears about 800 times in the Senate intelligence report.
The report said Manafort’s proximity to Trump “created opportunities for the Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information.”
Kilimnik, for his part, “likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services, and that those services likely sought to exploit Manafort’s access to gain insight into the Campaign,” the report said.
Kilimnik may also have been key in spreading the false narrative that the Ukrainians interceded in the 2016 election. The committee, in a footnote, said it “identified no reliable evidence” that the Ukrainian government interfered.
What questions remain?
The report says Manafort passed on campaign information to Kilimnik, but it is not clear what Kilimnik then did with it. Manafort, Kilimnik and their associates took extensive measures to hide and destroy their communications, the report asserts.
The report said the committee obtained information “suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected to the GRU’s hack and leak operation” targeting the 2016 campaign, but they had “limited insight.” That is because the committee could not access much of what Kilimnik and Manafort discussed.
Lastly, Manafort was interviewed “approximately a dozen times” and “lied consistently,” the report asserts. According to the committee’s report, this concerned “one issue in particular: his interactions with Kilimnik, the Russian intelligence officer at the center of the Committee’s investigation.”