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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spotlight Falls on 'Family' Man




OMSK, Western Siberia -- It is three hours by air from Moscow to Omsk, a sprawling collection of fraying low-rises by the oil fields of Siberia. Every month or two, a well-dressed, bespectacled young man arrives by commercial jet here and is whisked away to a corporate apartment not far from the Omsk Oil Refinery, Russia's largest and most modern petroleum complex. After a day or two of unspecified business, he leaves as he came.


Virtually nobody in this city of 1.2 million people would notice, but for his name: Leonid Dyachenko, the husband of President Boris Yeltsin's daughter and right-hand strategist, Tatyana Dyachenko.


Dyachenko, 36, popped into the headlines two weeks ago when it turned out that he had a bank account in the Cayman Islands with more than $2 million. His bank is the Bank of New York, which is at the center of a criminal investigation in the United States of possible money laundering.


On Tuesday, the newspaper Segodnya, citing unnamed Washington sources, reported that Yeltsin's son-in-law is expected to appear before New York prosecutors next Thursday. The Kremlin has declined to comment on that.


Dyachenko is an oil trader, allied with a frenetic Russian capitalist named Viktor Khrolenko and, records indicate, he seems to have occupied a luxury apartment overlooking New York's financial district.


Khrolenko, who set up two oil trading firms that employed Dyachenko, said in an interview that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized his records and that he was summoned to appear next Thursday before a federal grand jury looking into Russian financial dealings in the United States. Through a lawyer, he denied any wrongdoing.


Khrolenko was a Russian capitalist before Russian capitalism was cool. "Viktor was one of those guys who asked me to smuggle him a copy of Samuelson's book on economics in '78 or '79," said Jonathan Sanders, a Columbia University professor who is a godfather to one of Khrolenko's grandchildren. "He's a real Russian patriot who just wanted to bring some American things into his country.''


By the time Communism collapsed, Khrolenko had hooked up with a onetime promoter for the Rolling Stones to secure a recording contract for a Russian rock band and bring Soviet newscasts to the Discovery Channel. He started, then sold, a nightclub and published books on Russian art and literature.


Sanders believes Khrolenko had met Yeltsin by the late 1980s, while Khrolenko suggested that he met Yeltsin's son-in-law through a timber deal in the early 1990s.


In 1993, the Kremlin called Andrew Nurnberg, Yeltsin's literary agent in London, and said Khrolenko would negotiate the American rights to Yeltsin's autobiography.


By the spring of 1994, when Yeltsin's book appeared in the United States, Khrolenko's corporate umbrella, Belka International, was peddling its services at a Washington conference on Russian technology, opened by Vice President Al Gore.


Among others there was the Omsk regional governor, Leonid Polezhayev. A participant, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution, said Khrolenko was actively promoting oil and gas deals in the Omsk area - and that Polezhayev was at his side.


"They hugged each other like old friends," said that person.


A huge deal was soon sealed, but it did not directly involve Khrolenko.


Under the loans for shares privatization program, the Kremlin elected to sell off effective control of the Omsk Oil Refinery. That triggered a bitter battle that ended when the chief opponent of the plan, the refinery's general director, was found dead in Omsk's Irtysh River a week before the auction.


The auction winner was oil major Sibneft. Most say Sibneft is controlled by its general director, Roman Abramovich, and his longtime business ally, Boris Berezovsky, perhaps Russia's richest and most public business titan.


The Sibneft acquisition appears to have been good news for both Khrolenko and Dyachenko. Sibneft began selling its refined Siberian oil through a network of oil traders. At the top of Sibneft's list were a Khrolenko creation called Belka Energy of New York and a second, better-known Russian company called Runikom.


By all accounts, Dyachenko has either overseen or played a leading role in Belka's dealings with the Omsk refinery. A vice president of Runikom, which itself holds a 10 percent share of Sibneft, is Polezhayev's son, Alexei.


Khrolenko's lawyer, Irwin Rochman, said in an interview that Khrolenko's companies are legitimate and that Dyachenko, who has an undisclosed "relationship" with the companies, "has been compensated handsomely" for his work.


But it is unclear what Dyachenko does.