On December 14, the Russian edition of the “Forbes” magazine (“Forbes Russia”) published the “annual rating of Russian wines” for the first time, which includes one hundred product names [1]. At the same time, in this “rating” among “Russian wines” 32 positions, from the second to the hundredth, were taken by drinks made in the occupied Crimea [2]. The editors stated that the wines in the “rating” were selected by “an expert council from among qualified and recognized specialists” headed by Alexander Panasyuk, executive secretary of the Russia’s National Committee in the International Organization of Vine and Wine [3].

At the same time, among the 16 “experts” the editors named 12 Russian citizens and two “foreign women” with Russian roots, namely Irina Vinogradova and Nelly Galtseva. The allegedly “international” character of the “rating” was ensured by Brett A Crittenden, who has twenty years of experience in promoting European wines in Russia [4], and Robert Joseph, the owner of the “French” wine brand “Le Grand Noir” widely admitted to the Russian market [5].

It is noteworthy that the Crimean drinks were included in this “rating” by its organizers not only deliberately, but also with an obvious exaggeration of their importance even for the “Russian consumer”. For example, there are practically no wine products from a number of traditionally wine-making regions in the south of Russia itself in the “rating”, primarily from the Caucasian republics. And at the same time, the Russia-occupied peninsula is widely represented in the ranking by all its “wine regions”, including the frankly mediocre products of a number of local producers.

Our Association has written more than once that in fact, under the conditions of Russian aggression, Crimean viticulture and winemaking is experiencing stagnation at best. Neither the area of vineyards, nor their yields exceed the 2010-2014 indicators, and any noticeable “development” of the industry in the last five years was associated exclusively with the import of Italian and French equipment and seedlings to the peninsula, in violation of EU sanctions regimes. Therefore, the above “rating” from “Forbes Russia” has nothing to do with an objective analysis of the product and the wine market, and it is an obvious propaganda campaign of the Russian special services to promote the legend of the “prosperous Crimea”.

To understand why this has become possible for the Russian “Forbes”, one should study the background of this publication, which is quite interesting. The creation in Moscow of the Russian subsidiary of the American (New Jersey’s) “Forbes Media LLC” corporation, whose exclusive property is the “Forbes” trademark [6] was correlated with the German corporation’s “Axel Springer SE” activities [7]. In 2003, “Axel Springer Russia” firm was registered in Russia with an authorized capital of 68.9 million rubles and with two founders, a Muscovite Irina Silaeva and a German company AS Osteuropa GmbH, registered in Berlin (Charlottenburg town) under number HRB 90608 B [8, 9].

Since 1992, Irina Silaeva has been engaged, within the framework of the Moscow publishing house of “Independent Media” [10], in promoting such magazines as “Cosmopolitan”, “Playboy”, “Men’s Health” and so on to the Russian and Ukrainian markets, responsible just for the “Ukrainian direction” [11]. It was Silaeva who until 2005 was the general director of the aforementioned “Axel Springer Russia”, which published the Russian “Forbes”. Data from German registers [12] closely links “Osteuropa” with “Axel Springer” SE, pointing out, among other things, the merger of this company with “Axel Springer Asia” and mentioning “Axel Springer” SE’s chief lawyer Konrad Wartenberg [13; 14] and the long-term chief financier of the same concern Julian Deutz [15] as directors of “Osteuropa”.

In 2005, Mrs. Silaeva was “left” from the “Forbes” management and from the “Axel Springer Russia” shareholders [16], whose director was appointed Regina von Flemming, who worked as a Moscow correspondent for the German magazine “Spiegel” in the late USSR, and later devoted herself as the “Russian-German business relations’ developer” [17]. A scandalous episode was connected with von Flemming’s activities, when, on her instructions, the December 2006 “Forbes” issue with a critical article about the business empire of the wife of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, Elena Baturina, was not released. After the “Forbes Media LLC” management’s intervention in that situation, this magazine was nevertheless put on sale [18]. In 2015, von Flemming left “Axel Springer Russia” and now she feels quite well in the chairs of the board’s member of the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce and of the board of directors’ member of the PJSC “MTS”, key operator of Russian mobile communications [19].

Changes in the work of the Russian “Forbes”, with a decade-accumulated audience of 3 million people, were due to the fact that since the end of 2015 Russia has banned the publication of periodicals by companies with more than 20 % of foreign capital. Therefore, the rights to “Forbes” were allegedly acquired by Alexander Fedotov’s publishing concern “ACMG”, by gaining control over “Axel Springer Russia”, which was renamed to “As Rus Media”. Nevertheless, although “ACMG” became the owner in the Moscow authorities’ view, “Axel Springer SE” remained the owner of “Osteurope” in Berlin, whose president Ralph Büchi publicly expressed regret at the “withdrawal” from the Russian market. And although “Forbes Media” CEO Mike Federle welcomed the transfer of Russian “Forbes” to Fedotov, the obvious condition for the transfer was the editorial team’s preservation [20, 21].

This is exactly what the new “owner” Fedotov could not provide, being mired in both scandals with layoffs and in a new seizure in 2018 of the number, which described the sad story of the Caucasian corporation “Summa” and its beneficiaries, Magomed and Ziyavudin Magomedovs from Dagestan who have been in jail for the last three years on suspicion of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles of budget money. In fact, the Magomedovs’ problems arose due to the conflict over control over the Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port, with the participation of “Transneft”, as well as due to litigations with billionaires Viktor Vekselberg, Leonard Blavatnik and Leonid Lebedev [22, 23].

And in this specific situation, according to media reports, the Russian “Forbes” in August 2018 was bought out by businessman Magomed Musaev, allegedly for $ 7 million and for payment of a debt in the amount of 90 million rubles. Musaev claimed in the media that he was personally acquainted with the shareholders and management of the American “Forbes Media”, whose decision, namely Peter Hang and Michael Federly “to extend the Russian license until 2023”, that “made the economic sense of this investment … acceptable” for Musaev, who again undertook to keep the staff of the magazine together [24]. Later Musaev calls himself “a venture entrepreneur, president of the Global Venture Alliance, owner and member of the Board of Directors of Forbes Russia”, although his main position is the status of the son-in-law of the former president of Dagestan Ramazan Abdulatipov.

Mr. Musaev began his career as a deputy director, and then as a director of the Moscow’s “All-Russian Exhibition Center”, after which he moved to work in the governments of Moscow and Dagestan, while the prosecutor’s office dealt with the shortage of a billion rubles for a long time at the “All-Russian Exhibition Center”. Since 2013, Mr. Musaev has become the chairman of the executive committee of the Strategic Council under the President of Dagestan and he also headed the aforementioned “Global Venture Alliance” foundation; as the Russian press writes, both of these structures are associated with the projects of the aforementioned “Summa” group of the Magomedovs who have now fallen into disgrace [25].

Let us note that ‘Stanford University professor’ Gary Fowler, as well as American Lawrence Wright, who has lived in Moscow since 1999, who headed the “Startup Academy” in Skolkovo for several years, and then died in 2017 in car accident in Georgia under unclear circumstances, are called as the “founders” of the “Global Venture Alliance” [26]. However, Mr. Fowler, who has headed the Committee for Innovation and Technology of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia since 2003 and has been heading the “GSD Venture Studios” company registered in California since 2019 with a website in Russian, can hardly be called a “Stanford professor” [27, 28].

Such a close friendship between Californian showmen and “Summa” business would hardly have been possible without the active participation of Musaev’s father-in-law, Ramazan Abdulatipov, who built his career from 1972 to 1991 in the system of the Soviet Communist Party, and in 1991 participated, as a “vice president”, with Vadim Bakatin, a candidate from the special services, in the Russia’s presidential elections. Subsequently, Dr. Abdulatipov held various deputy posts, but in 1998 he became Russia’s Minister of National Policy at the suggestion of Yevgeny Primakov, then Russia’s Prime Minister and Soviet special services’ long-term functionary.

At the same time, Dr. Abdulatipov headed the “Assembly of the Peoples of Russia”, as the predecessor of the “Eurasian Peoples’ Assembly”, and our Association has already written about its activities within the framework of the Russian special services’ tasks. But the “oriental flavor” and a series of related scandals, did not allow Dr. Abdulatipov to “spread his career wings” for a long time, and only in 2010, within the framework of “United Russia”, his path to the presidency of Dagestan began.

However, the conflict, related to the Magomedovs’ “Summa” led to the fact that Dr. Abdulatipov was removed from the Putin party’s leadership in 2018, and obviously, as part of his “KGB merits”, he was transferred to “foreign policy” by sending him, as a Russia’s Special representative, to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [29]. In such conditions, not only the reflections of Dr. Abdulatipov’s son-in-law Mr. Musaev about the “Summa”-related publications in the Russian “Forbes” are understandable, but also his obvious desire to get into the narrow circle of “American investors of modern technologies”, exploiting, among other things, a world-famous brand, despite its unprofitableness in Russia (the loss of “As Rus Media” in 2020 amounted to 45 million rubles) [30, 31].

So Mr. Musaev is expanding his publishing activities, announcing the launch of a magazine, a digital version of the publication and holding conferences under the “Harvard Business Review Russia” brand, “aimed at introducing world management and business practices in Russia” [32]. At the same time, the results of Mr. Musaev’s work go far beyond the borders of Russia, as it is enough to indicate that now, through the structures associated with his “Global Venture Alliance”, namely, “GVA Auto” LLC, registered in Delaware, and “GVA Capital”, registered in California, he entered, through “Luminar Technologies”, and with the help of a Russian-speaking lawyer from Silicon Valley Leonard Graver, into the American business of producing sensors for self-driving cars [32, 33, 34].

The emphasis on industrial espionage has always been the hallmark of Soviet and Russian intelligence services; and in this context, we note that, by a “strange coincidence,” the above-mentioned lawyer from Dusseldorf and one of the directors of “Osteuropa” Konrad Wartenberg headed the legal department of the “Porshe” concern, before moving to promoting “Forbes” on the Russian market.

However, there are even more strange “coincidences” in the situation with the Russian “Forbes”. Now, under Mr. Musaev as the “owner” of that company, Elmar Murtazaev, a native of Tashkent with experience of working as an editor in the newspapers “Izvestia”, “Russian Telegraph” and “Moskovskie Novosti”, has become the general director of “As Rus Media”. Mr. Murtazaev has worked in the team of the Russian “Forbes” from 2011 to early 2016, under the leadership of the aforementioned von Flemming [35, 36]. It is noteworthy that Mr. Murtazaev was also the founder of a certain “Open Economy” Foundation, registered in Moscow at Leninskie Gory Street, possession 1, building 75, with the general director Konstantin Kiselev [37, 38]. At the same address, the same Kiselev created the “Group of expert forecasting “STRATEG”, with such a direction of activity as “study of public opinion” [39].

Let us note this negligence of the Russian special services in fabricating cover firms, since the Moscow State University is generally located at this Moscow address, and the “Moscow State University Science Park” is located in buildings 75 and 75 [40] as a structure directly controlled by the Russian authorities. Obviously, no one would have allowed registering some kind of private “Open Economy” structure at this address.

Thus, it is quite likely that the Russian “Forbes” is now used by the aggressor-State’s intelligence services not only for information operations against Ukraine such as the “annual rating of Russian wines,” but it also may serve as a cover for large-scale practical subversive and espionage work in the Western world. Therefore, our Association has formally approached the U.S. authorities, as well as the management of “Forbes Media LLC” in New Jersey and their European office, with a request for legal and commercial relations between “Forbes Media LLC” and the “Russian Forbes”, as well as between “Forbes Media LLC” and Magomed Musaev. Association also asked “Forbes Media LLC” to comment on the deliberate Crimean products’ mass inclusion, including those produced at enterprises illegally confiscated by the Russian invaders, in the above-mentioned rating of “Russian wines”.

We will inform our readers about the development of this situation.

1. https://www.forbes.ru/biznes/449555-rejting-lucsih-vin-rossii-2021-forbes

2. https://top100wines.ru/#experts 

3. http://www.vniinapitkov.ru/company/staff/panasyuk-aleksandr-lvovich/

4. https://www.instagram.com/p/CTyrV8_oqho/

5. https://www.instagram.com/p/CTwgE9TsKah/

6. https://www.forbes.com/connect/

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axel_Springer_SE

8. https://www.rusprofile.ru/foreign/29931

9. https://kontragent.skrin.ru/issuers/ASRRU

10. https://www.imedia.ru/brands/

11. https://regnum.ru/news/economy/2810534.html

12. https://www.northdata.de/AS+Osteuropa+GmbH,+Berlin/Amtsgericht+Charlottenburg+%28Berlin%29+HRB+90608+B

13. https://www.axelspringer.com/de/ax-press-release/personalie-dr-konrad-wartenberg-uebernimmt-die-gesamtleitung-der-axel-springer-rechtsabteilungen-als-general-counsel

14. https://www.juve.de/markt-und-management/neue-position-general-counsel-fur-axel-springer-kommt-von-porsche/

15. https://www.linkedin.com/in/julian-deutz-84845721/

16. https://www.infomesto.com/organization/firm/id/190133

17. https://whoiswho.dp.ru/cart/person/329139

18. https://lenta.ru/lib/14173630/

19. https://www.rbc.ru/technology_and_media/19/10/2015/5624c5e59a79472523a01246

20. https://www.gazeta.ru/business/2018/08/30/11934073.shtml

21. https://www.tadviser.ru/index.php/Компания:АС_Рус_Медиа_(ранее_Axel_Springer_Russia)

22. https://www.forbes.ru/milliardery/365175-dela-semeynye-kak-bratya-magomedovy-stroili-biznes-i-k-chemu-privela-ih-ssora

23. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Магомедов,_Зиявудин_Гаджиевич

24. https://www.tadviser.ru/index.php/Персона:Мусаев_Магомед

25. https://www.vedomosti.ru/technology/articles/2018/08/30/779483-novim-vladeltsem-forbes

26. https://rb.ru/news/lawrence-wright/

27. https://www.linkedin.com/in/fowlerinternational/

28. https://www.gsdvs.com/about-us?lang=ru

29. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Абдулатипов,_Рамазан_Гаджимурадович

30. https://finance.rambler.ru/economics/46800737-rossiyskomu-izdatelyu-forbes-otkazali-v-gossubsidii/

31. https://finance.rambler.ru/economics/46800737

32. https://www.forbes.ru/profile/389299-magomed-musaev

32. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/gva-capital

33. https://pravo.ru/news/234700/

34. https://www.borovic.ru/content/files/1.pdf ; http://startupjurist.com/about/

35. https://www.rusprofile.ru/id/617316#

36. https://www.tadviser.ru/index.php/Персона:Муртазаев_Эльмар_Джевдетович

37. https://www.audit-it.ru/contragent/1037739619576_fond-tsentr-ekonomicheskikh-issledovaniy-i-rasprostraneniya-ekonomicheskoy-informatsii-otkrytaya-ekonomika

38. https://zachestnyibiznes.ru/fl/773702769491

39. https://kontragent.pro/organization/ооо-гэпс-1077746247446

40. http://www.sciencepark.ru/ru/contacts