Ilya Medvedev

Coming Of Age: Former President Medvedev ‘s Son Joins The Party In Putin’s Russia

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In late June, with Russia’s war against Ukraine grinding on with minimal success and the country in the throes of a historic crackdown on dissent, 27-year-old Ilya Medvedev — the only child of former President Medvedev — officially became a member of the ruling United Russia party.

Russian media published a video of the younger Medvedev, wearing a prominently visible Apple Watch, accepting his party card from the hand of party official Andrei Turchak, the son of a long-time friend of President Vladimir Putin and a former regional governor who has been accused of ordering the near-fatal beating of journalist Oleg Kashin in 2010.

“I will try to use my abilities in the correct way in spheres that are important for the people and the country,” Medvedev said, promising to undertake projects in sports, education, health care, and “the digital transformation of government.”

It marked something of a coming out for the young Medvedev, who previously had kept a low public profile – an initiation into the ranks of Putin’s ruling apparatus. It also came just a couple weeks after unconfirmed reports that the United States had cancelled Ilya Medvedev’s visa and given him two days to leave the country. Although none of the details of the reports was confirmed, Dmitry Medvedev wrote an angry Telegram post on June 4 lambasting the West for imposing sanctions on the family members of Russian officials involved in the Ukraine war.

United Russia members who agreed to be interviewed for a profile of Ilya Medvedev by Current Time and Meduza placed little stock in the reports of a U.S. visa, but stressed that Dmitry Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Putin’s Security Council and one of the most avid, outspoken proponents of the war on Ukraine, needed to demonstrate that both he and his son are “faithful servants of the Motherland.” The party members spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they are not authorized to comment to the media.

‘A Model Young Man’

In 2016, a party was held at the Royal Bar in Moscow for recent graduates of the international law department of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). Music for the event was provided by the band Serebro for a fee of 1.5 million rubles (about $25,000). The tab was paid by 21-year-old Ilya Medvedev, according to two people who attended the event.

It was a typical gesture for the young Medvedev, according to several people who knew him during his time at MGIMO, a prestigious institute connected to the Foreign Ministry that has a long tradition of educating Soviet and Russian elites. By all accounts, Medvedev was a good student who never skipped class or boasted.

“He was a typical representative of the Moscow intelligentsia — very well-mannered, pleasant, tactful,” said one woman who studied with Medvedev. “He was a model young man. Your mother would be happy if you brought home such a fiancé. He was always friendly and nice.”

“You could talk to him,” said another fellow student. “You could joke around. He didn’t get into politics.”

“He didn’t have that swagger that you find with so many of the kids of high-ranking officials,” said yet another. These sources also spoke on condition of anonymity, citing possible repercussions for public remarks.

Ilya Medvedev (right) with his father, Dmitry, and mother, Svetlana, in 2013.
Ilya Medvedev (right) with his father, Dmitry, and mother, Svetlana, in 2013.

Other acquaintances said Medvedev preferred the company of students who earned their way into MGIMO on their academic merit. He sometimes invited his group to his home “where there was a maid and a home theater.” Several sources remembered such gatherings at a home in the wealthy suburban Moscow area known as Rublyovka, where both Dmitry Medvedev and Putin live.

The younger Medvedev’s MGIMO acquaintances also recalled that he was always accompanied by two bodyguards in civilian clothes. This was nothing unusual for some students of the prestigious institute. “There was one girl who had five bodyguards,” one interlocutor said.

“One girl who dated Ilya complained that her social media had been hacked, apparently in an effort to check her out,” one of Medvedev’s classmates recalled.

Another recalled accompanying Medvedev to a popular bar in St. Petersburg one weekend.

“When we arrived, the bar was completely empty,” he said, “and all the security cameras had been covered up. [Ilya] also reserved an entire bathhouse in downtown St. Petersburg for us and paid for everything.”

Friends recall that Medvedev loved playing soccer, discussing wine, and dreamed of a career in the tech industry. In this regard, he seems a carbon copy of his father at that time, who visited several Silicon Valley firms during a 2010 trip to the United States.

“He talked a lot about start-ups and innovations,” one of Ilya Medvedev’s acquaintances recalled.

“Ilya was an example of a normal guy who understood the social situation,” another friend said. “When we had discussions [about politics in class], Ilya’s views — although they were patriotic — were pretty close to the [relatively liberal] position of his father before he stepped down.”

Dmitry Medvedev was president from 2008 to 2012, steered into the top office by Putin, and served as prime minister from 2012 until a government reshuffle that occurred in January 2020, amid preparations for a constitutional change that allows Putin to seek reelection in 2024 and 2030.

His public rhetoric has changed dramatically since then and particularly since Russia launched the large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. He has railed against Kyiv and the West in Instagram posts that rival some of the most poisonous pro-war, anti-Ukrainian propaganda on state television.

‘You Shouldn’t Cross The Prime Minister’s Son’

Another interlocutor recalled that Ilya Medvedev spoke “rather freely” about political topics, did not repeat pro-government rhetoric, and did not harbor any negative attitudes toward the West.

“If we had more guys like Ilya — capable, young, ambitious –and if we had normal transfers of power, things [in Russia] would be better,” another friend added.

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations is considered to be one of the leading universities in Russia. (file photo)
The Moscow State Institute of International Relations is considered to be one of the leading universities in Russia. (file photo)

During his time at MGIMO, Medvedev was particularly close friends with two fellow students: Ivan Koptenko, the son of Ivan Koptenko, a member of Russia’s legislature in the early 1990s who has been described in the media as an “oil speculator,” and Ilya Trufanov, the son of a mid-level businessman. Trufanov was considered the intellectual of the group — “the most outstanding, the wittiest, the most erudite,” one former student recalled.

During this period, Trufanov was dating a fellow student named Yana Grigoryan. People who knew them at the time described their relationship as “very serious.” Somehow, however, Grigoryan ended up dating Medvedev, and the two are still together several years later, according to media reports and people who spoke with Current Time and Meduza.

“I think Trufanov accepted this because he understood you shouldn’t cross the prime minister’s son,” one former student who knew them both said.

Rublyovka

In a 2016 interview with the tabloid Moskovsky komsomolets, Ilya Medvedev stressed that he wanted to make a career on his own.

“I don’t want to work in a major state corporation,” he said. “I’m interested in the things that young people are interested in — like, technology.”

Indeed, the new graduate’s first job was with the social media company VK, also known as VKontakte. According to a 2016 leaked database, Medvedev was paid a little over 100,000 rubles ($1,500) a month while also studying at MGIMO for his master’s degree. He apparently left VK after about a year, and in 2019 he took a job with Mail.ru for 226,000 rubles ($3,500) a month.

Both companies were part of the VK holding, which was partially owned by the holding company of Kremlin-connected tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

“Ilya worked there thanks to his father’s name,” a Kremlin-connected source said. “They wouldn’t just hire him on his own.”

Dmitry Medvedev (left) with Russian billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov in 2008.
Dmitry Medvedev (left) with Russian billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov in 2008.

Another source connected to Mail.ru said Medvedev “did something connected with the legal department. Two other sources who worked at VK until 2021 told Current Time and Meduza that Medvedev worked at the company, but they didn’t know his title.

“They talked about him as long as five years ago, but I never once saw him at work,” one VK senior manager said.

Seven former and current VK employees confirmed they never saw Medvedev at the company. VK declined requests to comment.

Medvedev’s girlfriend, Grigoryan, worked for a company called Korklass, according to a leaked 2019 tax database. Korklass is part of IKS Kholding, an IT company owned by Anton Cherepennikov, until recently a business partner of Usmanov’s. Korklass provides programming for “safe, smart cities,” and a controlling share of it is owned by a subsidiary of the state-owned Rostelekom.

Few observers were surprised that Ilya Medvedev and Grigoryan found work in companies tied to Usmanov. In 2017, the Anti-Corruption Foundation of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny released a report based on since-concealed Moscow property records that asserted Usmanov gifted then-President Medvedev a luxurious Rublyovka home worth some $50 million.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=qrwlk7_GF9g%3F%26%26%26fs%3D1%26enablejsapi%3D1%26rel%3D0

Usmanov denied the allegations and successfully sued Navalny in a Moscow court, which ordered the opposition group to remove the video and publish a retraction. The Anti-Corruption Foundation stands by its report and has refused to comply with the court’s orders. The video has been viewed more than 45 million times.

A Love Of Wine

In September 2018, media reported on a gala party in Sochi at which Dmitry Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana Medvedeva, appeared. Observers noticed Ilya, Grigoryan, and their college friend Ivan Koptenko at the event as well.

Ilya Medvedev and his friends apparently also share a fondness for fine wines. The three of them, and Koptenko’s girlfriend Kristina Khtei, are all active users of the Vivino wine-evaluating and purchasing app. Although Medvedev does not use his own name on the app, the other three all subscribe to two accounts that very likely are his. One is a private account under the name Il Vino 7 that is registered to an “Anton Belov.” A VK account registered under the name “Ilya Belov” is followed by Grigoryan and several former classmates of Medvedev’s. The account is also a fan of Dmitry Medvedev’s official page.

Ilya Medvedev at a gala evening in Sochi with Yana Grigoryan, who is beieved to be his girlfriend.
Ilya Medvedev at a gala evening in Sochi with Yana Grigoryan, who is beieved to be his girlfriend.

A second Vivino account under the name of Afanasy Medvedev was publicly available until shortly after Current Time and Meduza published this investigation in Russian. In some of the photographs of the wine bottles, one can clearly see the reflection of a dark-haired young man wearing an Apple Watch. Grigoryan reviewed many of the same wines on the same day as “Afanasy” (Afanasy was Ilya Medvedev’s paternal great-grandfather’s name). One bottle that Medvedev particularly enjoyed sells for about 4,600 euros a bottle.

Ilya Medvedev shares his interest in wine with his father, who, according to the Navalny report, owned a winery in Italy’s Tuscany region. Both Medvedevs have been tied to the Skalisty Bereg wine-producing business in Russia’s Krasnodar region as well. The newspaper Sobesednik reported in 2017 that Dmitry Medvedev owns the winery through a foundation created by a friend from law school named Ilya Yeliseyev.

According to friends who spoke with Current Time and Meduza, Khtei works for Skalisty Bereg and graduated from its sommelier training program. A leaked 2019 tax database identifies the company as her employer.

No Comment

No information has been released about Ilya Medvedev’s work as a United Russia member, if any, since he joined the ruling party in early June. Sources within the party told Current Time and Meduza that he has not been seen at any United Russia events. United Russia Deputy General Secretary Darya Lantratova said it was “too early” to discuss Medvedev’s party projects, adding “Ilya Medvedev is still thinking.”

Ilya Medvedev declined to be interviewed or otherwise comment for this story, as did Trufanov, Grigoryan, and Koptenko. Dmitry Medvedev did not respond to written queries submitted to his assistant, Oleg Osipov. His former press secretary, Natalya Timakova, declined to comment.

After the Russian version of this story was published, Usmanov’s press service sent a written statement saying that any assertion that “Usmanov ‘is close to the Medvedev family’ is false.” The press service said it was not “able to confirm or deny” the employment of Ilya Medvedev or his girlfriend in any company of Usmanov’s holding, adding that Usmanov had no personal involvement in hiring decisions.

Meduza special correspondent Kristina Safonova and RFE/RL feature writer Robert Coalson contributed to this report.

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