Aerial view of the United States military headquarters, the Pentagon

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The Pentagon – the world’s largest workplace constructing – is america’ navy headquarters

A expertise firm bidding for a Pentagon contract to retailer delicate knowledge has shut partnerships with a agency linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, the BBC has discovered.

The Jedi mission, an enormous cyber-cloud which may in the end retailer nuclear codes, has already sparked safety fears.

Viktor Vekselberg, who’s near the Kremlin, has hyperlinks to the C5 Group, a cyber-investment agency which has labored carefully with the main bidder, Amazon Net Providers (AWS).

Each C5 and AWS say C5 just isn’t concerned within the Jedi bid in any manner.

All bids for the cloud are sealed. The Pentagon refused to remark stating that details about corporations concerned couldn’t be disclosed.

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Viktor Vekselberg (L) has met Russian President Vladimir Putin on quite a few events

What’s the Jedi contract?

In a bid to compete with Russia and China, the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure is without doubt one of the most formidable ventures the Pentagon has launched.

As a substitute of navy knowledge being saved on smaller servers throughout completely different departments inside the Pentagon, the knowledge might be held in a cloud.

The cloud is a time period used to explain plenty of distant servers, linked to the web, which may retailer huge arrays of knowledge and might be accessed from anyplace on the earth.

Prime navy secrets and techniques might be transferred to the Jedi cloud, together with labeled particulars about weapons techniques, navy personnel, intelligence and operations.

It is going to present troopers on the frontline with instantaneous entry to all the newest intelligence, making them simpler on the battlefield.

US Brigadier Normal Krumm, who helped to plan the contract, defined at its launch that having such data on the navy’s fingertips would assist the US win wars.

He stated: “The data needs to be accessible to a military platoon {that a} pleasant unit is simply across the block and won’t open fireplace.

“It is acquired to be accessible to a platoon of marines who’re about to breach a door that an IED has been discovered.”

There have been warnings that if the Pentagon’s IT system just isn’t up to date urgently then the US will “lose the longer term battle”.

Large, world expertise corporations reminiscent of Microsoft, Oracle and IBM have submitted bids, with a call due in April 2019.

Main voices within the sector – together with the opposite corporations vying for the contract – say that Amazon Net Providers (AWS) is the clear frontrunner.

Why is the mission so controversial?

John Weiler, the director of the IT procurement group IT-AAC primarily based in Washington, informed the BBC: “I’d not retailer my most private knowledge, nor would my fellow colleagues, in a industrial cloud, interval, the top.”

He says there are enormous dangers to storing such labeled data on a public, commercially-held cloud run by only one firm.

“We’ve got our nuclear codes, the place our troops are going to be from at some point to the subsequent. If the cloud’s safety is breached then our enemies may use our data in opposition to us. They could possibly be ready for us.”

The Pentagon needed to clarify to Congress why it was solely providing the contract to a single firm, with requires a cloud of this measurement to be run by a number of service suppliers to unfold the danger of safety breaches.

It stated having only one cloud supplier would higher serve troops on the bottom and would pace up entry to important data.

AWS additionally defended the US authorities’s place stating: “A single cloud could be safer than a multi-cloud atmosphere.”

There have additionally been accusations that the bid has been written with only one firm in thoughts, AWS, one thing the Pentagon denies, saying that the method has been clear and neutral.

Questions have additionally been raised about AWS’ hyperlinks to the C5 Group.

Who’re Amazon Net Providers and C5 Capital?

Amazon Net Providers has grown to be the largest cloud service supplier on the earth. A subsidiary of the web procuring firm, it controls a 3rd of the cloud computing market.

The C5 Group is a relative newcomer however inside a couple of years it has raised £100m to put money into cyber-security.

Regardless of AWS and C5 working collectively on plenty of cloud computing initiatives all around the world, each corporations have denied having an in depth relationship.

One of many many cyber-companies within the C5 group, C5 Speed up claims on its web site that it’s “growing a Cloud Accelerator Cluster in Europe, the Center East, Africa, and america, alongside Amazon Net Providers”.

C5 maintains it has by no means made a joint contract bid with AWS of any form in any nation and has labored with different cloud service suppliers like IBM and Microsoft.

Nonetheless, the vice-president of AWS, Teresa Carlson, and the person behind the C5 Group, Andre Pienaar, have toured the world selling their corporations’ relationship.

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AWS already has the mandatory safety clearances on account of their involvement with the CIA’s computing cloud

They’ve additionally joined forces on a mission within the Center East. AWS secured a contract to develop cloud-computing platforms for the Kingdom of Bahrain, and C5 got here in emigrate authorities web sites to the cloud.

Who’s Andre Pienaar and the way is he linked to Russia?

Mr Pienaar, the person behind the C5 group, is a well-connected South African with enterprise ties to a wealth of illustrious names.

The board of one among his flagship corporations, C5 Capital, contains a roll name of among the most influential and trusted figures in navy and safety circles on either side of the Atlantic.

He additionally has hyperlinks to Viktor Vekselberg, who’s on the US sanctions record for his shut ties to Vladimir Putin.

When the BBC requested Viktor Vekselberg if he knew Mr Pienaar, he stated that for two-and-a-half years, Mr Pienaar was a paid portfolio supervisor for his companies in South Africa. That position solely got here to an finish earlier this yr.

In keeping with this model of occasions he should have been working for Mr Vekselberg while operating C5 and dealing on initiatives with Amazon Net Providers.

When the BBC put that to Mr Pienaar, he denied having ever labored for Mr Vekselberg’s firm, and stated he had solely suggested them on a mining concern.

Shortly afterwards, Viktor Vekselberg’s spokesman got here again to amend their earlier assertion to match Mr Pienaar’s – which might recommend that they’re nonetheless in touch.

How is his enterprise, the C5 Group, linked to Russia?

Trying by means of the labyrinthine construction of corporations round C5, the BBC has discovered an injection of Russian cash.

One in all C5’s subsidiaries, C5 Razor Bidco, introduced in an funding of £16.1m in 2015, simply as Vladmir Kuznetsov grew to become a director and main shareholder of the corporate.

AWS confused that it doesn’t work with C5 Razor Bidco. Nonetheless, C5 Razor Bidco is a part of the C5 Group and is owned by Andre Pienaar.

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Media captionHow the Russian oligarch system works

Vladimir Kuznetsov is broadly reported as being the trusted lieutenant of the sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

He labored for the Russian oligarch from 1999 till earlier this yr, when the sanctions in opposition to Mr Vekselberg led to mass resignations throughout the board of his enterprise group, Renova.

Mr Kuznetsov informed the BBC he had resigned from the vast majority of Mr Vekselberg’s corporations in 2014, other than remaining on the board of Renova Administration till April 2018.

He denied being his “right-hand man”.

The BBC has additionally seen a doc, printed by an organisation known as the Household Workplace Circle Basis in 2016, which states that Mr Kuznetsov, who was talking at one among their occasions, was from “Viktor Vekselberg’s household workplaces” and was “director of Renova Group”.

Mr Kuznetsov stated his funding in C5 Razor Bidco was not influenced by both Mr Vekselberg or the Kremlin and the cash got here from his personal checking account.

C5 stated that the oligarch had indirectly or not directly invested in any of the group’s corporations.

Mr Vekselberg stated Mr Kuznetsov has by no means run “his household workplaces” and he has not made any funding in C5’s portfolio by means of Mr Kuznetsov or by another means.

Who’s Viktor Vekselberg?

His popularity within the US as a “good oligarch” who spent his cash on Fabergé eggs was tainted in April this yr when the US authorities sanctioned him for his shut ties to the Kremlin.

Mr Vekselberg has stated he’ll enchantment in opposition to the sanctions which have proved expensive to a few of his multi-million pound companies.

Former Pentagon official Michael Carpenter, who was the deputy assistant secretary of defence overseeing Russia, informed the BBC that he believes Mr Vekselberg “poses a threat to the US”.

“Any oligarch in Russia when known as upon by the Kremlin to do their bidding will accomplish that, and that’s the situation that they hold their wealth.”

Shortly after his identify appeared on the US Treasury’s sanctions record, the billionaire was stopped as he tried to board a aircraft in New York.

Federal brokers working for the Robert Mueller inquiry into alleged Russian interference within the 2016 US election questioned him and seized his digital gadgets.

He denies any wrongdoing or involvement in President Donald Trump’s marketing campaign.

It emerged earlier this yr that Columbus Nova, an organization affiliated to his Renova Group empire, paid £500,000 to Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s lawyer on the time.

The cash went to his firm, Important Consultants LLC, the agency he used as a part of a “hush settlement” with Stormy Daniels to forestall her publicising her alleged affair with Mr Trump.

Andrey Shtorkh, a spokesman for Mr Vekselberg, informed NBC Information that neither Mr Vekselberg nor Renova “has ever had any contractual relationship with Mr Cohen or Important Consultants”.

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Keystone SDA

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Vladimir Kuznetsov was the chief technique officer for one among Viktor Vekselberg’s key corporations, the Renova Group

What’s Skolkovo?

When the Skolkovo Innovation Centre was established by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev again in 2009, when he was Russia’s president, it was seen because the nation’s reply to Silicon Valley.

Viktor Vekselberg was introduced in to run it and has remained on the helm ever since.

It was described as an incubator of the most recent applied sciences which might create hundreds of jobs and assist cut back Russia’s dependence on oil and fuel, and permit it to compete with the West.

Nonetheless, a couple of years after its inception, warnings of potential espionage got here from each the US navy and the FBI, an accusation that Skolkovo and Viktor Vekselberg strongly deny.

Each the FBI and the US navy have warned that the innovation centre, designed to rival California’s Silicon Valley, could possibly be a entrance for “industrial espionage”.

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Skolkovo is described as a “expertise incubator”.

Mr Vekselberg stated it was with “nice remorse” that Skolkovo had been the topic of such criticism and that the centre labored carefully with the US and lots of world expertise corporations as a part of an “ecosystem” the place “innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive”.

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