Russian career – former Austrian foreign minister in the Kremlin’s service

Karen Kneissl caused a stir when she invited Vladimir Putin to her wedding. She is now a member of the board of directors of the powerful oil company Rosneft – and lobby group for Russian interests in the European Union.

Wedding on August 18, 2018 in Styria: Karen Kneissl dances a waltz with guest of honor Vladimir Putin.

Wedding on August 18, 2018 in Styria: Karen Kneissl dances a waltz with guest of honor Vladimir Putin.

Photo: Roland Schlager (EPA / Keystone)

“Kowtowing can pay off.” “A belated wedding gift.” Or “Freunderlwirtschaft Made in Austria”. Karen Kneissl was scorned and ridiculed on Twitter after it was learned that she would take a position on the board of directors of the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. The 56-year-old former politician was Austria’s foreign minister from 2017 to 2019. Most recently, Kneissl worked as a publicist for media group Russia Today (RT). RT is the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.

Kneissl has not commented on her new job as “independent director” at Rosneft’s top authority. “I am not giving interviews,” she said this week when asked by the Austrian news agency APA. Kneissl found a popular company on the 11-member board of the Russian energy giant.

With Gerd Schroeder and the Swiss banker on the board

Chairman of Rosneft has been former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is also chairman of Gazprom Nord Stream 2, since 2017. Another important figure is Matthias Warnig: Stacy’s former agent is Managing Director of Controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. A Swiss citizen has also been a member of Rosneft’s supervisory board since 2018. It is about banker Hans-Jörg Rudloff, born in 1940, who was once the head of investment banks at Barclays Bank, and a banking dean with the nickname “Mr. Eurobond, writes Swiss finance portal Finews.

Rosneft’s CEO is Igor Schinn, a close friend of President Vladimir Putin, and they have known each other since they lived together in Saint Petersburg in the 1990s. Rosneft is one of the Russian companies that has already been sanctioned by the USA and the European Union in the context of the conflict in Ukraine.

Since Kneissl was secretary of state, her wedding is especially remembered. When she celebrated her wedding with a businessman on August 18, 2018 at a Styrian winery, Putin attended the Kremlin leader as a guest of honor. This caused outrage both nationally and internationally. After a dance, Kneissl bowed to the Russian president – a gesture that earned her a lot of grudge. However, the bride did not want her criticism to be understood as a gesture of surrender to Putin. She explained, “Anyone who knows me knows that I will not submit to anyone.”

Controversial gesture: Karen Kneissl famous quote by Kremlin President Vladimir Putin.

Controversial gesture: Karen Kneissl famous quote by Kremlin President Vladimir Putin.

Photo: Keystone

Gerhard Mangot, a Russian political scientist and expert at the University of Innsbruck, also voiced his criticisms. Putin’s presence at the foreign minister’s wedding is not in Austria’s interest. The Russian president’s visit raised suspicions that Austria is a Trojan horse for Russia in the European Union. At that time it was still Kremlin-friendly FPÖ He participated in the government of Chancellor Sebastian Curtis. As a non-partisan, Kneissl was nominated for the government by the FPÖ. She had good relations in Moscow for a long time. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, she later repeated her contacts with the Russian president. Kneissl has since divorced her husband, but her relations with the Kremlin have strengthened even more.

Shortly before her guest appearance as foreign minister, Kneissl held various positions in the Austrian diplomatic corps. Then she worked as a journalist at ORF and other media and as a lecturer at universities. Kneissl, who grew up in Jordan, speaks seven languages, among them Arabic and Hebrew. It has made a name for itself above all else as an expert on the Middle East and energy policy. Kneissl also has many years of experience as an Oil and Gas Geopolitical Analyst. With her new job at Rosneft, Kneissl became a lobbyist for Russian energy and geopolitical interests in the European Union.

Other former Austrian politicians are active in Russia

Rosneft’s boards of directors are nominated by the Russian government. It is up to “independent directors” such as Kneissl to increase Rosneft’s acceptance among international investors. According to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Rosneft’s job is being rewarded roughly $ 550,000 per year.

Kneissl now belongs to the prominent circle of former Austrian senior politicians who had hired in Russia. Hans-Joerg Schelling (ÖVP), Minister of Finance from 2014 to 2017, acts as a consultant for the Russian state-owned Gazprom and mainly promotes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Christian Kern (SPÖ), Consultant 2016/2017, Member of the RZD State Railways Supervisory Board. Another former advisor to Austria, Wolfgang Schuessel (ÖVP), who ruled from 2000 to 2007, works for two large Russian companies. Since 2018, he has been a member of the Supervisory Board of MTS Communications Group and since 2019 a member of the Supervisory Board of Mineral Oil Company Lukoil.

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