Grigory Pasko: The Ambassadorial Silence Continues

{ed: see related article here] The silence of yet another ambassador – this time the German one By Grigory Paso, journalist I had sent my questions concerning the possible participation of foreign companies in the purchase of YUKOS assets to the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Germany’s Ambassador to Russia, Walter Jürgen Schmidt, by fax. Having ascertained that the fax had indeed been received, I started waiting for a response. By the way, here they are, my questions: 1. “In a recent interview with ‘Deutsche Welle’ radio, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam had declared that ‘the assets remaining in the ownership of the company YUKOS may soon be put up at auction – for the repayment of many billions in debts. The ESN group has expressed an interest in the assets. But, in the opinion of analysts, this group most likely represents in the given instance the interests of “Gazprom”. “Gazprom” intends to obtain loans in the West, employing German banks among others, in particular the German Dresdner Bank’. In Amsterdam’s opinion, any bank in the world should avoid participating in what is an egregious and systematic violation of human rights. But Germany, represented by the banks, may get into the expropriation business. 2. “It is known that this is not the first time Mr. Amsterdam is accusing Germany of collusion with the Russian leadership: he had also done so when, in an interview with the British newspaper ‘The Independent’, he had declared that Germany was helping the Kremlin in the sale of YUKOS assets. In the lawyer’s opinion, Deutsche Bank, which took part in the preparation of the auction for ‘Yuganskneftegas’, was acting as a representative of the German government. In Amsterdam’s opinion, Deutsche Bank’s actions as representative of the German government resulted from the close relations between Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder. It is noteworthy that in answering the questions of journalists at a «Gazeta.Ru» online press conference, your colleague Mr. von Pletz, essentially did not respond to these reproaches. 3. “What is your opinion with respect to Mr. Amsterdam’s accusations and suspicions? Will German banks be participating in the buy-up of YUKOS assets? 4. “It is known that on the eve of her recent visit to Russia and meeting with president Putin in Sochi, German chancellor Angela Merkel refused to call Putin an “irreproachable democrat”, in contrast to former chancellor Schroeder. Mrs. Merkel no doubt has grounds for such an opinion. Do you consider, Mr. Ambassador, that undemocratic trends in the actions of today’s Russian leadership and Mr. Putin personally are one thing, and relations with Russia and with Putin in business, in particular the energy business, are something entirely different (as the English say, ‘this is another pair of shoes’)? Is not, in your opinion, Russia’s position in relations with a series of countries of the West speculative precisely because of the dependence of these countries on Russia in deliveries of hydrocarbons? 5. “Just before Christmas, Mikhail Khodorkovsky received a letter of greeting in which around 30 members of the European Parliament expressed their support to him. In January of this year, in an interview with the publication ‘Netzzeitung’ (11 January issue), the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Günter Nooke, declared: ‘Human rights are being violated in Russia, but nobody is talking about this. On the one hand, information about violations is lacking; on the other, perhaps nobody wants to talk about them any more. For example, the YUKOS trial in Russia can in no way be associated with a functioning judicial system’. In November of last year, about 30 members of the Bundestag came out in support of YUKOS ex-head Mikhail Khodorkovsky in an open letter addressed to the Russian ambassador in Germany, Vladimir Kotenev. It is known that Mrs. Merkel too has expressed her concern about the conditions of Khodorkovsky’s incarceration in a prison colony beyond Lake Baikal. 6. “Could you, in connection with this, cite other concrete examples of the participation of German society and politicians in helping Russia to adhere to a democratic path of development and human rights?” The fax with the questions was sent to the FRG ambassador on 5 February 2007. On 10 February, counsellor 1st class, chief of the press and public affairs section of the FRG embassy in Russia, Wolfgang Brett, reported to me that the ambassador would be there only on 12 February. Starting with 12 February, Mr. Brett assured me daily that he remembers about me and my questions. On 16 February I telephoned yet again. Mr. Brett’s secretary answered that she had sent me an email. I said that I had not received any emails. “How can we telephone you”, she asked. I told her that my phone number was indicated in my letters to the ambassador. Then the secretary answered that there was a resolution about my letter: “interview with the ambassador is not possible”. I said that I wanted to know the reason for such an impossibility and would like to speak either with the ambassador or with Mr. Brett. Unfortunately, neither the one nor the other responded to my request. In commenting on this latest refusal of this latest head of this latest embassy to answer questions associated with the sale of YUKOS assets, I will note the following. First, I have formed the impression that the foreign policy agencies of certain countries of the West have a kind of veto over the expression of an opinion with respect to the YUKOS case. Second, the veto is so powerful that they refuse even to comment on questions not directly associated with the YUKOS case. Third, such a position of the ambassadors forced me to remember the words of president of Russia Putin, said by him at the recent conference on security in Munich: “Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.” In the given instance, I want to say that my questions, in consideration of the attitude of the Western countries to the role of the press in the establishment and development of democracy, should have received at least an affected diplomatic response. And finally, I was inclined least of all to quote Putin. But the gentlemen from the embassies give me no choice: I had wanted to quote them, after all, and not a well-known demagogue.