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Russia’s deputy defense minister is under sanctions. His ex-partner is still living the high life in Europe, investigation reveals

<i>CNN</i><br/>Protestors hold up signs outside an upscale apartment building in Paris on April 23
Protestors hold up signs outside an upscale apartment building in Paris on April 23

By Clarissa Ward and Mick Krever, CNN

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, a handful of protesters gather outside an upscale Parisian apartment complex.

“Freedom for political prisoners!” they chant. “Down with Putin! Putin is a war criminal!”

Several hold signs: “He makes money off the war in Ukraine. His family lives in France,” or “Family of a war criminal lives in Paris.”

What’s brought them here is the Russian socialite who reportedly rents one of the apartments inside, and her other half, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov.

Svetlana Maniovich is a woman of expensive tastes: invite-only Parisian jewelers, couture clothing and yacht vacations on the Mediterranean. The lifestyle isn’t unusual for people in her elite Russian circle, and her lavish spending has been on display on social media and in Russia’s society pages. But she’s no ordinary Moscow highflyer.

Her former partner, Ivanov, is a senior architect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a man who, on paper, reportedly has an official income of around $175,000 per year. He’s also the subject of European Union (EU) and American sanctions over the war on Ukraine.

Maniovich is the subject of an extensive investigation by the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), an investigative team founded by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The ACF, which organized the Paris protest, alleges that it is Ivanov, and ill-gotten gains brought in by his government position, that has funded Maniovich’s lifestyle.

“For the uber-corrupt people, it’s almost like it was — almost like nothing changed,” said Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations for the ACF, in reference to the impact of Western sanctions.

Drawing on a trove of 8,000 leaked emails, Pevchikh and her team assembled a picture of a woman who has seemingly escaped all scrutiny for Ivanov’s role in Ukraine, and the extreme profits he’s allegedly reaped. A video about Maniovich produced by the ACF has racked up over six million views on YouTube.

Using invoices found in her email, the ACF investigation claims, for instance, that on March 25, 2022 — as Russian missiles were raining down on Kharkiv — Maniovich spent more than $100,000 in a top Paris jewelry store on the famed Place Vendome.

Just last month, and more than five months after the EU placed Ivanov on its sanctions list, a Ukrainian video crew caught Maniovich on camera shopping and dancing in Courchevel, the elite French ski resort.

Maniovich — who also goes by Svetlana Ivanova, as well as by her maiden name, Svetlana Zakharova — did not return CNN’s request for comment.

CNN has not independently verified the source of Maniovich’s apparently unexplained wealth. Her lifestyle is funded, the ACF alleges, by the graft of Ivanov, who holds “one of the most lucrative jobs that one can have in the Ministry of Defense,” according to Pevchikh.

“He is responsible for construction,” Pevchikh said. “So every building site (that) there is for the Russian army, that’s his domain.”

His extreme wealth — with assets including, the ACF says, a historical house in one of Moscow’s most expensive districts, and a luxurious dacha — has a simple explanation.

“The answer is corruption,” Pevchikh argued. “Corruption, and specifically kickbacks. This is the system, the core concept of Russian corruption.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The ACF alleges that Ivanov, already a wealthy man, is benefitting extensively from the invasion of Ukraine.

The minister is frequently pictured in Russian-occupied Mariupol by state media, cutting ribbons on various construction projects. When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Mariupol in March, he held what was billed as an impromptu middle-of-the-night encounter with residents at one of Ivanov’s new apartment blocks.

“They destroyed Mariupol first, and then they designated a little plot of land where they built display houses,” Pevchikh said.

“The same company that built the display houses in Mariupol is paying for Timur Ivanov’s personal bills, personal construction projects, like his house on the outskirts of Moscow and his house in the center of Moscow,” she claimed.

So how is Maniovich able to get away with her luxurious, European lifestyle?

“It’s a very simple trick that they’ve played,” Pevchikh said. First, she said, Maniovich has an Israeli passport, through her first husband.

But more to the point, the ACF alleges, Maniovich and Ivanov have severed their ties — at least on paper. The pair finalized their divorce in August 2022, according to court documents included by ACF in their investigation — six months after the war began and just two months before the EU placed an asset freeze and travel ban on him — but not her.

Yet no public records show Maniovich and Ivanov have even begun the process to divide assets or custody (which can take years), the ACF says.

“The biggest indication of a real divorce is the division of assets afterwards. We see none of that,” Pevchikh said, referring to the evidence uncovered by ACF’s investigative team.

“In terms of the things that legally point to a real divorce, we don’t see any changes. It all still looks the same.”

In a statement to CNN, the French Foreign Ministry said it does not comment on individual cases, but that it had targeted 1,499 Russian officials with sanctions.

“We are continuing discussions with other member states in order to adopt new sanctions, to maintain pressure on Russia and to hinder its war effort,” the ministry said.

Whether the protesters’ demand that Maniovich herself face a reckoning is, so far, a question without a satisfactory answer.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Joseph Ataman contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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