Skip To Content
Israel News

Genesis Prize Founders Make Cameo In Steele Dossier About Trump’s Russia Ties

The Russian billionaires behind the Israeli award that Natalie Portman snubbed last week are mentioned in the controversial Steele dossier, which details alleged connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan, who fund the $1 million annual Genesis Prize, are listed in the intelligence package compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which famously suggests that a video exists depicting Trump watching Russian prostitutes urinate on each other.

However, the entry about the fabulously wealthy trio simply details their “close” albeit “up-and-down” relationship with Putin. Unlike other reports in the dossier, it makes no claims at all about any supposed ties to Trump or his lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Portman forced the cancellation of the annual Genesis Prize award presentation when she declared last that she did not want to visit Israel or interact with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid the ongoing violence with the Palestinians in Gaza.

The Portman controversy apparently has nothing to do with the pedigree of the prize’s founders, all of whom made their fortune in the economic free-for-all of the 1990s, Together, they control Alfa Group, a large holding company that owns Alfa-Bank, one of Russia’s largest private banks, and has interests in oil, telecommunications and insurance.

Fridman, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, with a net worth over $14 billion, founded what is now Alfa Group in 1989.

The Steele dossier reported that Fridman, Aven and Khan have a “close” relationship with Putin, in a briefing dated Sept. 14, 2016.

“Significant favors continue to be done in both directions and Fridman and Aven still giving informal advice to Putin, especially on the US,” the dossier read.

Steele wrote that Fridman and Aven have “kompromat,” or compromising material, on Putin relating to his “corrupt business activities from the 1990s.” The mutual pressure from both sides, Steele wrote, means that the relationship is “both carrot and stick.”

Fridman, Aven and Khan have sued Steele, his Fusion GPS company, and Buzzfeed, which originally published the dossier. Their complaint against Fusion GPS contended that “the Trump Dossier’s themes have nothing to do with the Plaintiffs,” and nipped Steele for misspelling the consortium’s name as “Alpha” throughout the dossier.

The trio founded the Genesis Philanthropy Group in 2007 to give grants to religious and cultural institutions that bring Russian-speaking Jews closer to Jewish life. A few years later they created the Genesis Prize, which is given out in partnership with the Israeli government. The prize honors leading politicians, cultural figures and thinkers who have strong Jewish identities.

The prize’s inaugural winner, in 2013, was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Other winners have included actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Controversy hit the 2018 Genesis Prize even before Portman snubbed it.

Haaretz reported that the prize was originally set to go to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but Netanyahu effectively nixed the selection. Ironically, Portman was viewed as a much less-controversial choice. The foundation vigorously denied the report.

The Genesis Prize later announced that it would give Ginsburg its inaugural lifetime achievement award. The jurist apparently still plans to attend a ceremony in her honor, despite Portman’s snub.

Contact Ari Feldman at [email protected] or on Twitter @aefeldman

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.