"First the tickets, then the movie,” said Russian oligarch Magomed Gadzhiev, a former member of the Russian Duma, who strongly supported his country’s invasion of Ukraine and is now looking for a quid pro quo: information about Russian operatives in exchange for European citizenship.
In a video interview with Romanian journalists, he claims he is ready to say everything he knows if they would just give him an Italian passport, or French if need be, and he insists he has always been against the war.
For a long time, Gadzhiev, a 57-year-old native of the mostly Muslim coast of the Caspian Sea, was a backer of the Dagestan battalion, a corps of the Russian Army actively participating in military operations in Ukraine. Now, he is trying to obtain European exile at what he deems is the right price. In early March, investigative journalists in Romania published a video recording with the former deputy of the Russian state.
"As soon as I get an Italian passport, I will hand over Russia," he insinuates in the interview. From the conversation, in Russian, it is clear that Gadzhiev does not intend to go home.
A Russian lawmaker for 18 years, Gadzhiev co-authored a bill that restricted the rights of opposition representatives from participating in elections. He also voted in the Russian Duma (the lower house of the Russian government, something akin to the U.S. House of Representatives, or House of Commons in the U.K.) for the illegal annexation of Crimea. Further, Gadzhiev devoted the last year of his parliamentary term to integrating Crimea into the Russian Federation, proposing to transfer the mining rights on Crimea’s mineral deposits and ownership of certain cultural treasures to Russia definitively.
One of the Kremlin’s operatives in Ukraine, the acting head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushlin, has heaped praise publicly upon Gadzhiev for his service to the cause. “Thank you for your many years of support to the Donbas’ industry and for humanitarian aid during the special military operation," Pushlin said. The Romanian video captures many of the battalion’s soldiers, in battle against Ukrainians, thanking him as well.
Now, Gadzhiev is bent on producing his Western bona fides.
"I sent my kids to Miami,” he said in the interview. “They are studying there, and my wife and I got a gold visa in Abu Dhabi," he says in the footage. According to the journalists’ investigation, the Gadzhievs’ Florida home is worth millions of dollars.
"I named my son Adam, an international name. I chose international names for my children. My other daughter's name is Sofia, and the other son is Suleiman, like in the movie,” he said, in a reference to “The Magnificent Century,” a recent TV series about the 16th-century Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.
His second wife prefers to live in Italy, he said, so Gadzhiev is negotiating for an Italian passport as a result.
Ukrainian, European, and U.S. politicians have repeatedly demanded that he be placed on the sanctions list for sponsoring terrorism. This has yet to happen.
"I have connections in the European sanctions commission. I have had a friend there for many years. He has a seat in the commission and met with me in September," Gadzhiev boasted. He said this friend helped him avoid sanctions after the annexation of Crimea.
The Romanian journalists believe that this mysterious friend of Gadzhiev is actually Eric Van de Weghe, a former Belgian intelligence operative with a pro-Russian background and far-right sympathies, with whom they believe Gadzhiev went on vacation last December and January in the Alps. According to the journalists, they stayed in the same location in Courchevel, France, with their wives, at a price of $80,000 a night.
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