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‘Working trips’ Team Navalny looks into Sergey Lavrov’s ‘female companion’ identified by investigative journalists

Christian Hartmann / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

On September 14, investigative journalists from iStories identified an alleged Russian Foreign Ministry employee by the name of Svetlana Polyakova as the longtime “female companion” of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The journalists discovered that several of Polyakova’s friends got jobs in branches of the Ministry, while she herself accompanied Lavrov on a number of working trips — some people even saved her contact information as “Svetlana Lavrova.” Building off the iStories investigation, Team Navalny published its own deep-dive into the relationship between Sergey Lavrov and Svetlana Polyakova on September 16. Meduza summarizes their findings here. 

A family affair

The journalists from iStories found that Sergey Lavrov and Svetlana Polyakova travelled together on three separate occasions — and speculated that they could have taken other joint trips. In their investigation published on September 16, Alexey Navalny’s associates said that they gained access to “all of the Lavrov family’s flights for several years.” Apparently, Polyakova accompanied Lavrov on working trips on many occasions, visiting Addis Ababa, Paris, Munich and a number of other cities — all on the Foreign Ministry’s dime. Sometimes, she indicated the purpose of her visit as a “working trip to a diplomatic mission” or a “visit for official negotiations.”

Alexey Navalny

At the same time, Navalny’s team claims that they didn’t find any evidence of Polyakova’s work in the Foreign Ministry or other government bodies (although in 2014 she was named as a Foreign Ministry employee while accepting an award for the restoration of a church in Tsarskoe Selo). Polyakova does, however, have experience in the movie business. In 2016, she appeared in the war drama “Hero”, which starred Russian singer and actor Dima Bilan

In 2021, Polyakova worked as producer on the film “Montevideo Unit,” which stars well-known Russian actors Alexey Serebryakov and Kseniya Rappoport. Referencing a photo from “Montevideo Unit” director Tatyana Lyutaeva’s Instagram account, Team Navalny surmised that Polyakova’s daughter Polina also worked on the film as an actress. According to Navalny’s associates, Polina Polyakova tagged along with her mother on some of Lavrov’s working trips. Tamara and Valeriya Polyakova — Svetlana Polyakova’s mother and niece — sometimes traveled with them, as well.

Private jets, European villas, and, of course, a yacht

In 2014–2017 Svetlana Polyakova, along with her daughter, niece, and mother, made repeated use of oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s private planes. The tail numbers of the flights they took to Europe coincided with the number of a business jet, which, according to journalists, Deripaska leased.

Polyakova’s daughter has repeatedly posted Instagram photos of villas in Montenegro and Sardinia, which Deripaska allegedly owns. She once described one of these villas as her “second home” (Polina Polyakova’s Instagram account is set to private, but Team Navalny published screenshots of her posts).

Having studied photos from the Instagram accounts of Svetlana Polyakova’s relatives, Team Navalny also concluded that they used Deripaska’s yacht — the one where, in 2016, the billionaire kicked back with Belarusian “sex trainer” Anastasia Vashukevich (a.k.a “Nastya Rybka”) and then Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko. 

In exchange for all of these favors, the Russian foreign minister lobbies for Deripaska’s interests, Navalny’s associates claim, citing examples of times when Lavrov supported the billionaire and his aluminium company Rusal

Bosphorus Watch

In early August 2021, Turkish blogger Yörük Işık — who runs a blog called the “Bosphorus Observer” — claimed that Sergey Lavrov was vacationing off the coast of Turkey on a super yacht called the Saluzi. It entered the bay where the Six Sense Kaplankaya is located; a Turkish resort where, as recently reported by RFE/RL’s Russian service, State Duma lawmaker Leonid Slutsky’s daughter stays with her mother from time to time. RFE/RL noted that Slutsky lives in the Moscow suburb Gorki-2, where he happens to be neighbors with Lavrov’s daughter.

Whether or not Lavrov was really vacationing on the yacht hasn’t been confirmed. However, during the two week period in late July and early August when the Saluzi was sailing off the coast of Turkey, Lavrov, judging by the news updates from the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, didn’t hold a single meeting. Having studied the metadata from Lavrov’s only video appearance during this time period, Team Navalny determined that it was pre-recorded. What’s more, Svetlana Polyakova flew to Turkey on July 26 and returned to Moscow on August 6 — during that time, her daughter posted an Instagram story showing a yacht with the same distinctive patterns as the Saluzi.

Summary by Olga Korelina

Translation by Eilish Hart

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