A Russian aluminum company that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) personally encouraged to build a plant in Ashland, Kentucky, is suspending all of its investments in the project because its U.S. partners have failed to raise the necessary funds for completion of the project, according to Bloomberg:
“The news is only the latest twist for the troubled project, which has been plagued by fundraising questions and the ouster of the CEO formerly overseeing the venture. Rusal’s involvement has been controversial from the start, after it was revealed that the company had been subject to sanctions.
“Kentucky pledged $15 million in taxpayer dollars toward the project under former Gov. Matt Bevin, but current Gov. Andy Beshear has repeatedly vowed to get the money back if the mill project doesn’t materialize.”
Rusal is owned by Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin-connected Russian oligarch who had been banned from doing business in the United States under economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
When Donald Trump became president, McConnell led an effort to block a bill that would have kep sanctions on Deripaska in place. Many saw the move as a clear quid pro quo, the Washington Post reported at the time:
“Within weeks, the U.S. government had formally lifted sanctions on Rusal, citing a deal with the company that reduced the ownership interest of its Kremlin-linked founder, Oleg Deripaska. And three months later, Rusal announced plans for an extraordinary partnership with Bouchard’s company, providing $200 million in capital to buy a 40 percent stake in the new aluminum plant in Ashland, Ky. — a project Gov. Matt Bevin (R) boasted was “as significant as any economic deal ever made in the history of Kentucky.”
Rusal had promised that the new plant would provide 550 badly-needed jobs in Ashland, but it now appears that won’t be the case, at least not for now and perhaps never, especially if the Biden administration imposes new sanctions on Russian oligarchs such as Deripsaka in retaliation for Kremlin attempts to interfere in the 2020 election.