Mysterious Putin 'niece' has a name

Olga Vinogradova (not pictured) has emerged as one more shadowy figure in the still-unfolding story of contacts between Trump associates and the Russian government. | Mladen Antonova/AFP/Getty Images

Federal investigators have a name for a mysterious Russian woman who offered to help broker meetings between former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Kremlin officials: Olga Vinogradova.

The name, which has not previously been reported, has taken on new significance for federal investigators seeking to more fully understand the role of the woman, whom Papadapoulos initially described in emails to campaign colleagues as “Putin’s niece," before later learning she was unrelated to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Papadopoulos referred to Vinogradova by name in his campaign-era emails during the spring of 2016, sources tell POLITICO. Introduced to Papadopoulos in March of that year by a London-based academic, Joseph Mifsud, she was part of what federal investigators suspect may have been a Russian effort to infiltrate Trump’s campaign team with the help of intermediaries, or “cut outs.”

Papadopoulos's emails do not make immediately clear who Vinogradova — who could have been using an alias — worked for, where she lived, or her connection to Mifsud, POLITICO learned from one source. The surname is fairly common in Russia, and POLITICO could not independently determine who Vinogradova is.

Vinogradova has emerged as one more shadowy figure in the still-unfolding story of contacts between Trump associates and the Russian government. Russia’s intelligence services rely heavily on third-party cutouts with vague or hidden ties to the Kremlin, including academics, businessmen, oligarchs, and even “honey traps”: attractive women who lure their targets into illicit liaisons that can be used for blackmail.

Whether Vinogradova might fit into one of those categories is unclear, but the answer could be an important puzzle piece for federal investigators trying to understand the Kremlin’s method.
https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/09/putin-niece-olga-vinogradova-g...