Sunday, June 13

The former Austrian minister who danced with Putin at his wedding joins the board of directors of the Russian oil company Rosneft


Correspondent in Berlin

Updated:

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The good relations of Karin Kneissl with the Kremlin they were no secret. The former Austrian Foreign Minister generated a great controversy when he danced with Vladimir Putin on his wedding day, in August 2018. Putin was on his way to a bilateral meeting with Angela Merkel in Berlin and attended the link in Austria on his way, inevitably becoming the protagonist of the banquet held in Gamlitz. As a gift to the bride and groom, Minister and businessman Wolfgang Meilinger, Putin landed at Thalerhof airport with a choir of Don Cossacks who enlivened the celebration and, at the end of the dance, the Austrian Foreign Minister bowed to his guest of honor who had many and very controversial readings. Now the illustrious guest takes up that relationship and hires the prominent Austrian for the supervisory board of the Russian oil company Rosneft, the main one interested in the completion of the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, through the Baltic and to the coasts of northern Germany, a project that has Joe Biden irritated, facing European partners and half Eastern Europe in suspense .

The company has officially announced the appointment after the last meeting of the board of directors, composed of eleven members and to which the former German Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also belongs. It won’t be the first time Kneissl work for Russian companies directly related to Putin. The former Austrian Foreign Minister between 2017 and 2019 announced in May 2020 her collaboration as a guest writer for the Russian state broadcaster ‘Russia Today’. But its presence in Rosneft has geostrategic implications much deeper. Rosneft posted sales of around 80 billion euros in 2019 and is one of the largest Russian employers, with around 330,000 workers.

Is about a company closely linked to Putin and that executes the political-energy strategies of the Russian government in the world. Kneissl was appointed as minister by Chancellor Kurz, but she does not belong to the Austrian People’s Party (VÖP), but is independent, although at key moments such as her appointment to head of the Ministry, she was proposed and supported by the ultranationalist party of extreme right FPÖ. Other guests at that wedding were Kurz himself and the leader of the FPÖ at that time, Hans Christian Strache, who is still part of the hard core of the party. Although he has never been a member of the FPÖ, Kneissl shares positions with the anti-European and xenophobic party, which in 2016 signed a cooperation agreement with Moscow with the government United Russia party, controlled by Putin, to strengthen relations between the two nationalist formations.

Great diplomatic tension

Since the wedding, Kneissl has repeatedly defended himself against allegations of collusion with Putin. “The Russian president bowed beforehand and I responded to that bow with another bow. It was not a matter of submission, “he has said time and again, but his contacts and the recent appointment to the Rosneft leadership are worrying in countries like Ukraine, where the government doubts Vienna’s future ability to participate in peace efforts. The chairwoman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Ukrainian parliament, Hahha Hopko, has refused to accept Austria as a mediating country because she perceives Kneissl’s influence as “not neutral”. His entry into the board of directors occurs in a context of great diplomatic tension, in which Russia will not resume regular flights with Austria until the next day 10, in response to the suspensions decreed by Vienna, and while Europe holds its breath until the Summit in which Biden and Putin will face each other for the first time, on June 16 in Geneva.

At Rosneft’s annual meeting of shareholders held on June 1, “the new composition of the 11-member board of directors was approved, which includes: (….) Karin Kneissl, Doctor of Law, former Federal Minister for Europe , Integration and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria, independent director, “says the statement posted on the Rosneft website. The other members of the board of directors are the representative of the Qatar Sovereign Investment Fund, Faisal Alsuwaidi; another member of the aforementioned Fund, Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi; the CEO of the German company Nord Stream 2 AG, Matthias Warnig; the director of BP Russian Investments Limited Robert Dudley; the CEO of the company BP plc, Bernard Looney; Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Nóvak; Kremlin adviser and former Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin; the chairman of the board of directors of Marcuard Holding, Hans-Joerg Rudloff; Rosneft President Igor Sechin; and the head of the Nord Stream 2 shareholders’ committee, Gerhard Schroeder. The outgoing member to be replaced by the former Austrian minister is Oleg Viuguin, a professor at the Faculty of Economic Sciences of the Russian Higher School of Economics.

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