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Putin’s German biographer was funded by the Russian oligarch

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Hubert Seibel with Vladimir Putin in 2016 (Photo: © Michael Klimentyev/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire)

Hubert Seibel is known for documentaries and books about Russia: the investigation revealed that he received 600 thousand euros from Alexei Mordashov

An investigation conducted by two organizations of investigative journalists in collaboration with newspapers such as Washington Post And the guardian It was revealed that the well-known German documentary director and journalist Hubert Seibel received funding worth 600,000 euros from a Russian oligarch who is very close to President Vladimir Putin. Between 2018 and 2019, Alexei Mordashov had paid this amount to support the work of the journalist and especially his book Putin’s Power: Why Europe Needs Russia.

Sibel is well known in Germany, having written books and produced journalistic documentaries that have been broadcast on public television Answer: In the past, I worked with weekly newspapers strict And Der SpiegelHe conducted the first television interview with Edward Snowden (A former intelligence analyst who has been at the center of a major US spy story for years), his editor introduced him as “the only Western journalist with direct and personal access to Putin.” Sibel himself said that he had met “more than a hundred times” with the Russian president, about whom he filmed a documentary in 2012 entitled “I am Putin” and two books: the first in 2015 was biography.

This case is one of the first involving an influential Western journalist and provides evidence of large sums of money being paid in what appears to be an attempt by the Putin regime to secure adequate journalistic representation.

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investigating ininternational Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), already known for revealing the so-called “Panama Papers” and the German Investigative Journalism Organization Paper media This report is based on 3.6 million documents from seven different financial organizations, six of which are in Cyprus and one in Latvia. Through these documents, journalists involved in the investigation were able to reconstruct how Russian elites hid and provided capital in Europe, despite sanctions.

One of Sibel’s trips to Russia in 2013 (EPA/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/RIA NOVOSTI/KREMLIN POOL)

Within this major investigation, the financing of the oligarch Alexei Mordashov in Sybil came to light: documents indicate that he not only provided 600 thousand euros for the last book, but began Already marking the first. Mordashov is an oligarch with interests in steel mills and banks and a personal fortune value In 20 billion dollars. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he was listed among the few subject to economic sanctions by the European Union because he was “particularly close” to the Russian president.

Seibel had previously covered the war in Kosovo and the nuclear energy industry, and met Putin for the first time in more than a decade in a documentary about the energy sector. The idea for a documentary about Putin himself was born after agreeing with the president’s staff on an interview and photo session that lasted several months: Documentary It achieved great success and popularity because it contains a more personal look into the president’s past and life. Sibel followed Putin while he was fishing, at judo matches, and in the swimming pool, and also got him to talk about his childhood in St. Petersburg.

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The book, published three years later, was further criticized because it seemed to adopt many of Putin’s theses without any criticism. However, the German context, especially in those years, was often rather favorable to the Russian president. The “German” past of Putin himself, who worked for the KGB in Dresden and spoke fluent German, and above all the great economic relations between the two countries, had a significant impact. German leaders, such as Gerhard Schröder, but also Angela Merkel, have pursued policies aimed at bringing Russia into the European orbit, at least at the economic level. Russia has also invested heavily in the German press market and state media such as Russia Today And Sputnik They gained some importance in Germany before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Even after the outbreak of war, Sibel maintained positions that many observers considered pro-Russian. Contacted by Washington Post Sibel confirmed that he had received funding from Mordashov, which he described as a contribution to the numerous expenses incurred on research for the book, and said that it had been made clear that this would not affect his “independence of judgment.” Documents show the money was passed through De Vere Worldwide Ltd, a financial company based in the British Virgin Islands.

But Sibel did not want to reveal the amount of funding, which he did not inform the publishing house about Hoffman and Camp. The latter said that she knew nothing about these connections and had no plans to publish new books by Sibel (she is writing a book about the war in Ukraine).

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