Cablegate Chronicles: Skiing With the Oligarchs

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A Kazakhstani oligarch, Aleksandr Mashkevich hosts a dinner at his house in Almaty for two visiting U.S. congressmen.

FROM: ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN
TO: STATE DEPARTMENT
DATE: APRIL 17, 2008
CLASSIFICATION: CONFIDENTIAL
SEE FULL CABLE

------------------------- Skiing with the Oligarchs -------------------------
¶5. (C) In September 2007, Kazakhstani oligarch Aleksandr Mashkevich -- the co-founder of metals and mining giant Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and, according to ASTANA 00000760 002.4 OF 003 CLASSIFIED BY POL/ECON CHIEF STEVEN FAGIN, REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) Forbes magazine, the 334th wealthiest man in the world -- hosted a dinner at his house in Almaty for two visiting U.S. congressmen. Only two Kazakhstanis attended the event, State Secretary Kanat Saudabayev and his assistant. Judging from SIPDIS the friendly banter between Saudabayev and Mashkevich, the two have a quite cordial personal relationship. Mashkevich told a lengthy anecdote about a ski vacation that he and Saudabayev had taken together in Europe.

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¶6. (C) Saudabayev had hosted a codel at that same Almaty residence in 2005, without Mashkevich in attendance. At that time, when the Ambassador asked Saudabayev whose house it was, he would only say that it belonged to "a friend." Saudabayev has twice hosted visiting USG officials for a meal at Mashkevich's Astana residence -- both times without Mashkevich. It is not clear what Mashkevich is spending his billions on, but it is certainly not culinary talent. On all four occasions the Ambassador has eaten at one of his houses, the menu has been similar and focused on beshparmak (boiled meat and noodles) and plov. The wait staff appeared to be graduates of a Soviet cafeteria training academy. The wine, at least, was somewhat upscale with reasonably good French vintage bottles uncorked for the guests. The Astana residence has wooden plaques on the doors that would fit in nicely in a Wyoming hunting lodge but are somewhat out of touch with the upscale "Euro-remont" that is so popular among the Kazakhstani elite.

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