Report Claims Putin’s “Soft Power” Impresario Vladimir Yakunin Under Investigation

From Radio Free Europe:

Reports have surfaced that Vladimir Yakunin, a longtime crony of Vladimir Putin, is being investigated by Russian law enforcement.

Russia’s Interior Ministry officials are not confirming the reports, which first appeared on the blog of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. But they are not denying them either.

Navalny published the claim here. If true, the news is extraordinary: Yakunin has personal links with Putin that go back to the 1990s, and he was formerly the head of Russia’s railway system.

It’s also unexpected because Yakunin has done more than anyone else to promote a pro-Russia message internationally by organising “soft power” initiatives that have wooed a wide – and in some ways bizarre – array of academics, religious figures, left-wing activists, and emeritus European politicians. One of Yakunin’s refrains is that “human rights” is deployed in international relations to “de-sovereign states” at the behest of neo-liberalism; this is a message that can be tweaked to appeal to conservatives worried about family values and gay rights, and to left-wingers with a one-size-fits-all Chomskyist reading of America’s place in the world.

Initiatives and links previously noted on this blog include meetings with Allan Carlson and Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families; working with the LaRouche movement to promote a petition critical of the US and Europe; arranging for New York University Press to publish a book of interviews with “the world’s foremost thinkers” (one of whom is Yakunin himself, of course); and various conferences through his World Public Forum initiative, which holds yearly meetings on the island of Rhodes.

Yakunin co-founded the WPF with a Greek-American businessman named Nicholas F. S. Papanicolaou, and his current co-chairs include the academic Fred Dallmayr and the former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer. Papanicolaou in turn is close to figures on the neo-Pentecostal end of the US Christian Right, especially Jerry Boykin and the evangelist Rick Joyner, and at one WFP event Joyner apologised for “the filth and perversion coming out of Hollywood”. Meanwhile, the WPF website posts a strange mix of materials, ranging from UN press statements to Counterpunch articles, to pieces exonerating Russia from the downing of MH17 and (perhaps predictably) criticising Western sanctions on Yakunin,

Yakunin has also looked east, presenting an award to Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, sponsoring a youth event in India, and working with China’s Song Ching Ling Foundation.

Yakunin has also been active in promoting the interests of the Orthodox Church; in 2011 he opened a conference in Greece on protecting Mount Athos from the threat of ” unrestricted access for all kinds of visitors” (i.e. women), and in the same year he arranged for a relic of the Virgin Mary to be brought from Athos to Russia. In some years he has been responsible for bringing the Holy Fire from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to Russia at Easter.

The Financial Times, writing about Pope Francis’s meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba, adds as background detail:

Conservative Orthodox circles have gained access to the president’s inner circle through Vladimir Yakunin, a fellow former security services official and now a religious adherent, who headed stated-owned Russian Railways until late last year.

…Since 2012, when Mr Putin began his third presidential term, the Kremlin has aggressively pushed an agenda of conservative social values close to the church leadership’s heart, such as curbing sexual minorities’ rights and censoring the arts.

…The Patriarch and President have repeatedly emphasised their esteem for each other in ways hard to imagine the Pope and a western leader doing. In 2012, Patriarch Kirill said Russia had managed to escape the upheaval of the 1990s “through a miracle of God, with the active participation of the country’s leadership”. He told Mr Putin: “You personally played a massive role in correcting this twist in our history.”

Perhaps time for Yakunin to call in a favour?


One Response

  1. He is adhering to Russia’s policy against the sodomic Agendas of the west,- that which is spiritually called Sodom & Egypt( to its beliefs)

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