“Top Gun: Maverick” — nominated for six Academy Awards, together with greatest image — has a darkish secret.
The blockbuster, which celebrates the scrappy nature of US fighter pilots flying harmful missions to maintain the world protected, is being focused for being funded partially by a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev, who’s near the Kremlin and sanctioned by Ukraine.
In an open letter to the Academy, the Ukrainian World Congress, which represents Ukrainian expats around the globe, expressed its “severe considerations over Russia’s affect on the Hollywood movie business.”
The letter circulated final week throughout the closing days of voting for the Oscars.
Rybolovlev, 56, isn’t any stranger to controversy.
He maintained his innocence whereas spending a 12 months in a Russian jail within the Nineties for a homicide he was later acquitted of.
In 2008, throughout the financial recession, Rybolovlev, by way of a belief, paid $95 million for Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion. At the time, Trump was cash-strapped and radioactive to US banks.
In 2011, Rybolovlev additionally paid a then-record $88 million for a 15 Central Park West penthouse owned by Joan Weill.
Joan lived within the penthouse along with her husband, Sanford Weill, former chair of Citigroup, which was energetic shifting Russian cash offshore within the Nineties, in accordance with the US General Accounting Office.
In 2000, a GAO report said that Citigroup allowed greater than $800 million in suspicious Russian funds to stream by means of US accounts tied to shell firms registered in Delaware.
The deposits had been believed by investigators to be “cash fleeing taxes or the earnings of felony actions,” in accordance with the Tax Justice Network, a UK-based advocacy group.
While the primary “Top Gun” movie mentions Russia because the enemy, “Top Gun: Maverick” makes no point out of Russia, although the US pilots are bombing a snowy nation’s nukes, in accordance with Diane Francis, an anti-kleptocracy professional on the Atlantic Council, who reported on Rybolovlev’s “Top Gun” connection in her Substack e-newsletter.
“It’s appalling,” Francis informed The Post. “Hollywood actors go to Ukraine for picture ops, however do nothing about Russian affect in their very own yard.”
Rybolovlev — who reportedly had affect over the movie — was the silent and controlling monetary supply behind New Republic Pictures.
In 2020, when the pandemic put Hollywood on shaky floor, New Republic negotiated a $200 million plus take care of Paramount Pictures to fund 1 / 4 of the funds of 10 movies, together with “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Coming 2 America,” and the brand new “Mission: Impossible” sequels, in accordance with studies first printed within the LA Times in January.
Rybolovlev reportedly started shifting his belongings out of the West, together with New Republic, after Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, as Western governments started to impose a brand new spherical of sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
In its letter, UWC president Paul Grod mentioned that Rybolovlev is considered one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs and an in depth pal and enterprise associate of Yury Trutnev, deputy prime minister of Russia.
Rybolovlev, generally known as Russia’s potash king, was additionally Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s largest associate in potash exports, bringing in money stream that helped Lukashenko strengthen his authoritarian regime, Grod wrote.
Rybolovlev’s silent however controlling function in New Republic was first revealed by New Republic’s ex-president and chief content material officer, Bradley Fischer, who filed a breach of content material lawsuit in opposition to New Republic in LA Superior Court, first reported in January within the LA Times. Part of the swimsuit was redacted.
In its open letter to the Academy, the Ukrainian World Congress known as on the Academy to reject movies with “direct or oblique investments by Russian oligarchs or different enablers of Russia’s genocidal struggle on Ukraine,” to assessment the eligibility of “Top Gun: Maverick” from taking part within the Academy Awards, and to concern a powerful assertion condemning Russia’s struggle in opposition to Ukraine and any makes an attempt “to affect Hollywood and American society.”
Wrote Grod: “We had been moved by the second of silence displaying solidarity with Ukraine finally 12 months’s Academy Awards…In this context, the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) expresses its severe considerations over Russia’s affect on the Hollywood movie business.”
In the letter, Grod additionally wrote: “Rybolovlev’s funding of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ was not publicly disclosed and there may be good motive to consider that his involvement could have led to censorship on behalf of the Kremlin. Contrary to the unique movie, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ makes no direct or oblique reference to Russia. This is hardly a coincidence. Hollywood should be vigilant and clear of Russian cash getting used to additional pro-Kremlin censorship.”
Rybolovlev can be an artwork collector and Monaco soccer workforce proprietor.
He has been the topic of investigations in Switzerland and Monaco and he has additionally filed lawsuits in opposition to Sotheby’s and Swiss artwork supplier Yves Bouvier, alleging fraud.
Earlier this month, a US district court docket decide dominated “largely in favor” of Sotheby’s, which is looking for to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Rybolovlev in opposition to the public sale home stemming from the oligarch’s battle with Bouvier, who allegedly “defrauded” Rybolovlev of $1 billion in inflating artwork offers, in accordance with studies.
The oligarch alleges that Sotheby’s helped Bouvier purchase artwork for lots of of tens of millions lower than the $1 billion he later offered them for to Rybolovlev.
The offers embrace “Salvatore Mundi” — partially attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Bouvier acquired Salvatore Mundi for $83 million in 2013, then offered it to Rybolovlev for $127 million.
In 2017, Rybolovlev auctioned it at Christie’s for $450 million — the client was reportedly Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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