Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is leaving the board of directors of the Russian oil company Rosneft. Schröder, who is the head of the Rosneft supervisory board, said it was impossible for him to extend his mandate, the company said on Friday. No details or reasons were given. With the SPD politician Schröder, the German businessman Matthias Warnig is also leaving the supervisory board.
The 78-year-old Schröder, a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has recently been under massive pressure. There were demands from the Bundestag, his party and also the federal government that he should no longer work as an oil and gas lobbyist for Russia because of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.
The SPD politician also holds management positions in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipeline projects – both natural gas pipelines through the Baltic Sea connecting Russia and Germany. The pending commissioning of Nord Stream 2 has now been put on hold by the federal government. Warnig is the head of the Nord Stream 2 operating company.
In February, shortly before Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Putin praised Schröder as a “decent person” because he does not turn away in difficult times. The Kremlin boss also supported Schröder’s nomination for the supervisory board of the Russian energy company Gazprom. The work of such an “independent expert” would only benefit cooperation with Germany, Putin said at a joint press conference with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in the Kremlin on February 15. Shortly thereafter the war began.
The Gazprom general meeting is scheduled for June 30th. It is unclear whether Schröder is still in discussion for this. In Germany, the plans caused criticism. Schröder is already Chairman of the Shareholders’ Committee of Nord Stream AG and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nord Stream 2 AG.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in an initial reaction that he took note of the media reports on Schröder’s withdrawal from Rosneft. He pointed out that Scholz had only asked Schröder again on Thursday evening to resign from his post at Russian state companies. “It would be best if Gerhard Schröder resigned,” he said at a press conference in the Netherlands.
The Bundestag had previously cut Schröder’s office and employees, which Scholz welcomed as “logical”. However, the Chancellor rejected the EU sanctions demanded by the European Parliament. SPD parliamentary group deputy Detlef Müller spoke out in favor of the sanctions of the Bundestag against Schröder being maintained. “The decision of the budget committee to remove Gerhard Schröder’s former chancellor privileges is correct and continues to apply – even after the announcement that he will give up his position as chairman of the supervisory board at Rosneft,” he told the “Welt”.
Weeks ago, Schröder had also asked the SPD leadership to resign. The party leaders Lars Klingbeil and Saskia Esken received no reply to a letter to this effect. The SPD in Hanover has received a number of applications to expel Schröder from the party; by the end of April there were more than a dozen.
Among other things, there was a stir when Schröder, in the middle of the escalation before the Russian attack on the neighboring country, criticized Ukraine’s demands for arms deliveries as “saber rattling”. Even after the war began, Schröder visited Putin in Moscow, but the attack on Ukraine continued afterwards.
The Union faction in the Bundestag said that Schröder should have parted ways with Rosneft earlier. “The step comes much too late,” said Andrea Lindholz (CSU), deputy chairwoman of the Union faction. “Mr. Schröder should have broken away from Putin and those around him immediately after the start of the war.” He said he failed to distance himself from the Russian leadership. “Rather, it seems as if he hopes to keep his office in the Bundestag and prevent it from being included on the EU sanctions list.”