UK media is reporting that several former senior European government leaders have resigned from the boards of Russian companies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to a Financial Times report:
February 24, 2022 The former prime ministers of Italy and Finland and the ex-chancellor of Austria resigned from the boards of Russian companies on Thursday following Vladimir Putin’s full military invasion of Ukraine. Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister of Italy and a senator for the centrist Italia Viva party, walked away from Delimobil, Russia’s largest car-sharing service, founded by Italian businessman Vincenzo Trani, in response to Russia’s military action. Renzi told the Financial Times he emailed Delimobil’s board of directors on Thursday morning to communicate his resignation with immediate effect. Esko Aho, the former prime minister of Finland, quit the board of Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, where he served for six years as an independent director and member of the supervisory board. Aho said it was his personal choice that had nothing to do with the bank. “It’s my personal decision, my personal conclusion,” he said. “I saw the challenges in my role because of the sanctions, it’s obvious that it will be difficult to be an active participant in this operation.” Sberbank declined to comment on his decision. Christian Kern, Austria’s former chancellor, said he had resigned from the board of Russian Railways (RZD) on Thursday morning with immediate effect. “RZD had now actually become part of Russian war logistics,” Kern told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, adding: “I deeply regret this … My thoughts are with the victims of this senseless aggression.”
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While several former senior government leaders have decided to turn their back on Russia, others continue to serve on Russian corporate boards. According to the FT report, the following former European politicians are still on the Russian payroll:
- Gerhard Schröder, former chancellor of Germany
- François Fillon, former prime minister of France
- Karin Kneissl, former foreign minister of Austria
- Lord Barker of Battle, former climate minister of the UK
In November, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on a European Parliamentary report on foreign interference that identified Schröder, Fillon, and Kneissl, among others, as Russian influence agents, stating:
…a number of former high-level European politicians and civil servants are hired or co-opted by foreign companies controlled by States operating malicious interference within the EU, in exchange of their knowledge at the expense of the EU and its Member States’ interests.
In January, we reported that the European Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Interference (INGE) recommended making it harder for foreign actors to recruit former top politicians too soon after they leave their job.
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