Marat Kabaev, the father of former gymnast Alina Kabaeva – often referred to as the mother of Russian President Vladimir Putin's children – is a partner of the lawyers from RBS, a company connected to the attack on the Russian assets of the Swiss holding company Holcim, investigative outlet Agentstvo reported on 24 October.
At the end of July, the Swiss cement concern Holcim reported a corporate raid on its Russian plants. Independent outlet Proekt revealed that Vladimir Putin's acquaintances and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin's entourage might be behind the attack on Holcim – cement specialist Igor Kharchenko in particular, a man associated with lawyers from the RBS consulting company.
RBS, as Agentstvo notes, is also linked to Marat Kabaev, Alina Kabaeva's father. He is president of the International Association of Islamic Business (IAIB) and chairs the board of directors of the MAIB private equity fund, which describes itself as “the largest Shariah-based fund.” The fund's contact number matches that of RBS (the same number is also listed by one of Kharchenko's companies).
The MAIB Foundation's board of directors includes two RBS partners, who serve as CFO and legal director, respectively. As the Dozhd TV channel reported in 2018, Marat Kabaev is an influential public figure and a member of Vladimir Putin's inner circle. In addition, according to the channel, Kabaev lobbied Marat Khusnullin for the post of deputy mayor of Moscow.
In turn, Khusnullin has several overlaps with Kharchenko's projects: the vice-mayor supervised mega-operator “Mosinzhproekt” and capital construction projects in which Kharchenko was involved, the two of them were both members of Moscow’s Scientific and Technical Council on Urban Planning Policy and Construction, and people from Khusnullin's team are among Kharchenko's partners.
After the war in Ukraine began, one of the world's largest cement producers, Swiss holding Holcim, announced its withdrawal from the Russian market. A few months after that decision, “portfolio investor” Yevgeny Kostyukevich tried to re-register the legal entities of Holcim's Russian subsidiary.
“Kostyukevich”, however, isn’t a real person, but a character created using the deepfake technology.
Kostyukevich's claim on Holcim’s assets was first voiced in an interview with Forbes (already deleted from the publication's website, but an archive copy is available online) and later supported by a copy of a court decision, which he (or rather, the person who introduced himself as him) gave to Forbes. The document stated that in June 2022, Grozny’s Leninsky District Court ruled that Kostyukevich received 100% of the shares in Holcim's main assets in Russia.
Holcim itself stated that it did not know Kostyukevich and that the debt assignment agreement was a forgery. The company learned about the claims after the fact, when an attempt was made to re-register Holcim's Russian business.
In trying to get to the bottom of the story, the author of the Proekt investigation (then a Forbes journalist) arranged a video interview with Kostyukevich. Here's how he described what happened:
“The opportunity to assess the resourcefulness of these shadow operators presented itself an hour after the appointed time, when Kostyukevich's image finally appeared on the screen. From his first words, it was obvious that I was looking at a deepfake – a photo ‘brought to life’ by artificial intelligence. The ridiculousness of the situation was obvious, but even that wasn’t the limit. A picture of very low quality was used for the video interview – Kostyukevich's pupils were moving, and the contours of his face were almost glued to the background.”
According to Proekt, Putin's acquaintances and Deputy Prime Minister Khusnullin's entourage could be behind the attack on Holcim – the publication notes that the main suspect behind the raid might be cement specialist Igor Kharchenko.