Russian ‘Gun-For-Hire’ Lurks In Shadows Of Washington’s Lobbying World

By Mike Eckel

— The hoots and jeers began the minute the movie ended and the lights went up on the seventh floor of the Newseum, a Washington museum dedicated to the free press. The film was a semifictionalized look at the story of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who helped uncover a massive tax fraud and later died in a Moscow jail.

B5A3BEF5-60F7-4503-B57B-4045FF385F6C_w640_r1_cx46_cy37_cw33_sIn the front of the room, a handful of Russian opposition activists shouted, “Shame!” at the director. In the back, out of the spotlight, was the event’s organizer — a fast-talking, nattily dressed man in a dark blue, double-breasted suit standing at a small table, sipping bottled water and quietly watching the commotion.

The June 13 showing was the film’s premiere. Other screenings had been canceled in Europe following protests by critics who say it is a crude attempt to smear Magnitsky’s name and that of the Western financier who employed him, William Browder.

That it was shown at all was a small coup for Rinat Akhmetshin, the man at the back of the room who for nearly 20 years has worked the shadowy corners of the Washington lobbying scene on behalf of businessman and politicians from around the former Soviet Union.