February 25 2022, 13:01 pm

Elite Capture Undone? Former European Leaders Resign from Russian Corporate Boards

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.”

Read the rest here.

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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