By Stephanie Baker and Daryna Krasnolutska
Anatevka’s honorary mayor is Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s Ukraine point man, and its fundraisers include Giuliani’s two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who’ve been indicted for funneling foreign money into U.S. political campaigns.
The questions hanging over Anatevka are whether it is what its sponsors claim -- a refuge for Jews driven from eastern Ukraine by the Russian-backed separatist war -– and what role, if any, it played as Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman sought to persuade Ukrainian officials to investigate Trump’s political opponents in the U.S.
The mystery begins with the residents. Only about 20 are Jews who fled the east and live in three small apartment blocks, according to two residents who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. The project’s leaders say more than 100 people live in the village; residents put the number at closer to 65, the majority Jews from nearby Kyiv, they say. A large dormitory for those displaced by the war stands empty. About 200 children attend three well-equipped schools, most bused in daily from Kyiv and nearby villages, some paying tuition.
Guards in CamouflageVisitors are kept at arm’s length by guards in gray camouflage. The village’s founder, Rabbi Moshe Azman, declined repeated requests for comment.
Azman has known Giuliani for about 15 years, according to people familiar with the situation. The former New York mayor made his first trip to Kyiv in 2003 to give a speech hosted by Ukrainian oligarch Vadim Rabinovich. Azman is also close to Parnas and Fruman, who say they’ve raised $500,000 for the village through a U.S. nonprofit called American Friends of Anatevka. The group’s website says they will match every dollar donated up to $1 million. Plaques highlighting contributions by Fruman hang at the boys’ school.
But American Friends of Anatevka hasn’t filed a financial report in two years, so it’s not possible to verify the matching offer. The group’s accountant, Michael Koloden, declined to speak when contacted at his office in Brooklyn next to a shuttered Italian social club. A lawyer for Parnas declined to comment. Fruman’s lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment. Giuliani declined to answer questions about Anatevka, saying he believed Bloomberg News would misinterpret or bury whatever he said.
Last month, Parnas and Fruman were indicted in New York on charges of funneling foreign money into U.S. Republican political campaigns. They’ve pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors in New York have been examining records from more than 50 bank accounts including that of American Friends of Anatevka, the U.S. nonprofit the pair established in 2017.
Giuliani was due to accept his title as honorary mayor in Anatevka in May. Parnas was already in Kyiv awaiting his arrival when Giuliani called off the trip amid a public outcry over his plans to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination to take on Trump next year, and Biden’s son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Cigars in ParisInstead Giuliani met Azman over cigars in Paris and accepted a large key to the village to mark his role as honorary mayor. While in Paris, he also met Ukraine’s Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskiy as part of his efforts to set up investigations into the Bidens and unfounded allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
Over the past four years, Azman, with help from Parnas and Fruman, has raised millions of dollars for Anatevka from Jewish oligarchs across the former Soviet Union. Alexander Mashkevich, the billionaire founder of a Kazakh mining company under investigation in the U.K, donated $200,000 to the U.S. nonprofit set up by Parnas and Fruman, according to its website. He didn’t respond to requests for comment. The donation of Yitzchak Mirilashvili, a co-founder of the Russian social-media network VK.com, is highlighted on a plaque outside the boys’ school. His father Mikhail has given as well.
In Anatevka, several of the displaced Jews from the east complained about their circumstances, saying they are just scraping by, working in the village in construction and cleaning for low pay. One family in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with no refrigerator said they’d refused to pay for tuition and repairs because they barely have enough for basics and utilities, which Anatevka doesn’t cover. Residents said that when they asked other organizations for help, they were told that Anatevka provides them with everything so they didn’t qualify for more.
A TourBesides a synagogue and rehabilitation center, the village has a large two-story home for members of the rabbi’s family. After repeated requests for a tour of Anatevka, Shmuel Azman, one of his sons, agreed to show the boys’ school. He said village residents include those who fled the war and some locals who pay rent and tuition. He said a structure, still half built, will house 40 orphans brought daily to the schools. “Some are from the east and some are the children of dysfunctional families like drug addicts,” he said.
Shmuel’s mother, Hannah Azman, who runs another of the schools, said she thought about 40 of the children across the three are displaced from the east but wasn’t sure. “I don’t ask these questions,” she said.
Sitting in a woodworking shop, Sergey Yarelchenko said he and his family, among the first to flee the war in eastern Ukraine, arrived in Anatevka in 2015. But his children are gone; they moved to Israel.
The project helped cement ties among Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman and Azman. A 2018 video posted on Anatevka’s Facebook page shows Giuliani, tie undone, sitting with Parnas and Fruman in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Waving and smiling, Giuliani asks, “Moshe, How are ya baby?” adding, “I can’t wait to come back.”
On Nov. 2, 2018, Azman posted pictures of himself in New York with Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman and Charles Guiccardo, a Long Island lawyer. Guiccardo had paid Giuliani $500,000 as part of an investment into Fraud Guarantee, a company started by Parnas, according to Randy Zelin, a lawyer for Guiccardo. He declined to comment on Guiccardo’s relationship with Azman.
This past summer, Giuliani attend a lunch in London for “British Friends of Anatevka.” He was photographed alongside Anthony Fisher, who had served as director of a foundation set up by Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to the U.S. on bribery charges. Around the same time, Parnas and Fruman met in Vienna with Firtash, who began digging up dirt on the Bidens in an effort to get Giuliani’s help to fight his extradition. Fisher didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Other well-known donors to Anatevka in Ukraine include Vadim Rabinovich, the oligarch who sponsored Giuliani’s trip in 2005 after he donated a memorial in Kyiv to victims of 9/11. Rabinovich founded a pro-Russian political party called For Life. That party includes Viktor Medvedchuk, who named Russian President Vladimir Putin godfather to his daughter.
— With assistance by Irina Reznik, and Greg Farrell