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Meet the ex-Soviet intel officer at Don Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Rinat Akhmetshin, the former Soviet intelligence officer who attended a June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, is a superlative Washington political operator who over the last two decades has repeatedly been at the center of cases involving corruption, dictators and sometimes war.

Akhmetshin was apparently hired to work with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Trump on June 9, 2016, in a lobbying effort against the Magnitsky Act, a congressional measure that sanctions Russia and Russian figures. He confirmed to the AP on Friday morning that he was in that meeting, saying: "I never thought this would be such a big deal to be honest."

I met Akhmetshin in 1998 in the Kazakhstan city of Almaty, where I was writing for The New York Times and he was representing the country's opposition leader in a quixotic effort to oust President Nursultan Nazarbayev.