The New York Times reports: Russian Island, near the port city of Vladivostok in the far east, was a decaying former military base and home to a scattering of cattle when President Vladimir V. Putin suddenly envisioned it as a $1.2 billion campus where he could welcome heads of state for an Asia-Pacific conference.
That sent Kremlin officials scrambling to find a developer to transform a site lacking fresh water, a pier or roads. They rejected numerous bids before one of them took a flier on a man known mostly for his glamorous shopping malls: Aras Agalarov of the Crocus Group.
A little more than three years later, in 2012, Mr. Putin opened the spectacular Far Eastern Federal University, some 70 modern buildings built in a crescent overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Not long after, Mr. Putin pinned a blue-ribboned state medal, the Order of Honor, on Mr. Agalarov’s chest at a dazzling Kremlin ceremony. Soon, a string of demanding, more prominent projects followed: a stretch of superhighway ringing Moscow; two troubled stadiums for the 2018 World Cup, including one in a Baltic swamp.
Mr. Agalarov, 61, also worked on a project with a future president, Donald J. Trump. Last week, the Russian developer and his crooner son and heir, Emin, were thrust into the swirl of speculation about whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. [Continue reading…]