The Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation faces accusations that Moscow is funding it to bypass American sanctions on a controversial energy project
A German environmental foundation that has been given more than £17m by Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, has been accused of being a “puppet” funded by Moscow to circumvent American sanctions on the final stretch of a controversial pipeline carrying Russian natural gas to Germany.
The Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation was set up this month in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the largely rural state in northeast Germany where the 764-mile Nord Stream II pipeline comes ashore.
It is the creation of Manuela Schwesig, the state’s Social Democratic premier, who is an ally of Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s former chancellor and chairman of Nord Stream II.
Schröder has been attacked by political opponents for his close relationship with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, with whom he reached the Nord Stream deal in 2005 shortly before leaving office.
The new foundation espouses a variety of green causes but also has a commercial wing that is authorised to buy parts and equipment for the pipeline, and is seen by Nord Stream’s opponents as a barely veiled attempt to circumvent sanctions.
Some €20m (£17.7m) of its budget comes from Gazprom, which leads the pipeline project – 100 times the €200,000 donated by the state government. The Russians are promising a further €40m in coming years. Nord Stream also has the right to name the head of the foundation’s commercial wing and other posts on its board.
“Frau Schwesig describes it as an environmental foundation. In fact, it’s a Gazprom Foundation,” Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a senior member of the opposition Free Democratic Party and a leading critic of the project, told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“Ninety-nine per cent of the text of the articles of association is about climate and environmental protection, but 99 per cent of the money comes directly from Nord Stream II AG, which belongs to Gazprom.”