Former German leader Schroeder quits Russian oil giant Rosneft

Former chancellor bows to mounting pressure to cut ties with the Kremlin

Gerhard Schroeder, right, formed a close personal friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his term as chancellor of Germany. Getty
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Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has left his post at Russian oil company Rosneft, bowing to increasing pressure to sever his longstanding ties with Moscow.

The announcement by Rosneft on Friday came a day after the European parliament urged Mr Schroeder to leave his Russian lobbying posts and German MPs separately voted to strip him of paid retirement perks.

A Rosneft statement said Mr Schroeder and Matthias Warnig, the chief executive of cancelled gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, had decided it was impossible to stay on the company’s board.

It praised them for their “significant contribution” to Rosneft’s international business and their role in the “implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in Russia and Germany”.

Mr Schroeder, 78, was in February nominated for a separate role at gas company Gazprom but has not revealed whether he accepted the post. He previously lobbied ministers on behalf of Nord Stream 2.

His Russian energy links, as well as his personal friendship with President Vladimir Putin and his record of Kremlin-friendly public statements, have made him something of an embarrassment back home since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Gerhard Schroeder lobbied on behalf of Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline project cancelled in February. AFP

Mr Schroeder, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005, said in an interview with The New York Times published last month that alleged war crimes by Russian troops should be investigated but that he did not believe the order would have come from Mr Putin.

In addition, his pro-Russian stance ― along with the relatively Moscow-friendly policies of his successor Angela Merkel ― is now blamed in part for the reliance on Russian energy that Germany is quickly trying to escape.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has largely avoided condemning his former colleague, said on Thursday that “the best thing would be for Gerhard Schroeder to lay down his posts”.

Mr Scholz, who called off the opening of Nord Stream 2 in February, said he did not see any need for further action against Mr Schroeder after MEPs raised the prospect of him being sanctioned.

The parliament resolution said European figures who continue to serve on the boards of major Russian companies should be added to the list of people in Mr Putin’s inner circle penalised over the war in Ukraine.

It cited former French prime minister Francois Fillon as an example of a former politician who had severed his Russian links after the invasion.

In a separate German vote MPs voted to shut down Mr Schroeder’s paid post-chancellorship office on the grounds that he no longer fulfilled any obligations linked to his former role.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said he agreed with the decision, which does not strip Mr Schroeder of his personal police protection, but had no complaint about reports that the former chancellor would appeal.

“We call that the rule of law. Unfortunately it doesn’t apply in every country in this world,” he said on Friday in a swipe at Russia.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 2:19 PM