Russian Official Who Reportedly Helped Plan Trump Tower Meeting Dies In Mysterious Helicopter Crash

Paul Manafort walks into court for a hearing in USA v Manafort
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A Russian official who reportedly directed foreign operations for Natalia Veselnitskaya died Wednesday in a helicopter crash. According to The Hill, Saak Albertovich Karapetyan crashed outside of Moscow in a forest in the Kostroma area.

Karapetyan, 58, was a Russian deputy attorney general who is believed to have assisted Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with senior Trump campaign officials in the Trump tower in 2016. The deputy attorney general was allegedly part of the team behind the effort to overturn the Magnitsky Act, an anti-corruption act passed in the U.S. in 2012. He also worked to derail international investigations in Russia’s purported crimes.

Karapetyan has been a vocal critic of the Sergei Skripal case in Britain. He was in charge of the Russian end of the investigation into the poisoning.

“The British authorities have based the anti-Russian campaign surrounding the poisoning of former GRU officer Skripal and his daughter on a provocative scenario. A similar scenario was used in baseless allegations of Russia’s attempt on the life of Boris Berezovsky in London in summer 2003 and the circumstances surrounding the death of Alexander Litvinenko in the U.K. in November 2006,” Karapetyan said.

The deputy attorney general allegedly helped orchestrate the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 between Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort during the 2016 presidential election. That meeting has been under scrutiny as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere with the U.S. election.

According to Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. claimed that the administration would look into addressing the Magnitsky Act if Donald Trump won the election.

“Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it. I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it,” Trump Jr. said, according to Veselnitskaya in an interview with Bloomberg.

Trump Jr. and others involved have denied the accusation. President Trump has famously been critical of the investigation.

Reports say that two other bodies were found in the wreckage of the crash, including one belonging to the pilot. The third body belonged to Arek Harutyunyan, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Video from the news agency also shows the mangled remains of the helicopter.

The helicopter took off after nightfall without official approval. It was flown by experienced pilot Stanislav Mikhnov.