Member of the EU commission received money from Gazprom
07/10/2009 12:28

A scandal starts brewing around the International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia that was working under aegis of the European Union and that presented its report on the 1st of October 2009. Information appeared that Otto Luchterhandt, German human rights defender and a member of this commission has received a large sum of money for lobbying of Russian interests. According to the news agency "Expressnews" with reference to its source in Moscow money were transferred to Luchterhandt's account in Bonn from Gazprom.

The source says that rumours about this are circulating both in Russian Gas concern and the Kremlin but the exact amount of the transferred money is not yet known. At that, the account of the human right defender is closed for others, while Sergey Kuprianov, the head of department of public relations of Gazprom refused to answer "Expresnews" question and turned his phone off.

The agency also mentions that according to the verified information during his lobbying of the Russian interests in the course of report preparation Luchterhandt was actively supported by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Foreign Minister of Germany. For this the Russian authorities promised Steinmeier a high position in Gazprom - where already works ex-Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroeder - when he leaves the post of the minister.

The report "mission – truth" contains Otto Luchterhandt's private conclusion that "Russia can justify its military operation against Georgia based on the right of self-defense (page 51, the UN Charter) as well as the right of collective self-defense together with South Ossetia". This conclusion left many experts bewildered. In addition, on the 5th of October the German human rights defender in his interview to the newspaper "Der Standard" called on Europe to recognize independence of the occupied regions of Georgia. He motivated this by his view that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will lower tensions in the Caucasus.

It should be mentioned that Otto Luchterhandt is noted for his pro-Russian orientation and during the formation of the "Tagliavini Commission" the Georgian side protested against his inclusion in the group of European experts as this German human rights defender even before the beginning of the investigation used to make statements where he justified Russian aggression against Georgia and made Tbilisi responsible for the war.

Scandal around this issue started in February 2009 during the visit of Taglaivini, the head of the commission in Georgia. The Georgian side demanded removal of Otto Luchterhandt, the expert of international law and the head of the department of Eastern European law in the University of Hamburg and Christopher Langton, retired Colonel Christopher Langton, head of defence analysis at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. The latter during his service was working in the UN monitoring mission in Abkhazia and was noted for his connections with the separatists. But Luchterhandt and Langton stayed in the commission and that was explained by absence of international mechanisms for implementation of relevant procedures and solving of this problem.

Grigol Vashadze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia announced on the screen of Imedi TV in February that official Tbilisi considered unacceptable involvement in the commission of persons who expressed their preconceived opinions regarding Russo-Georgian war. "There should not be people in the commission who have in advance formed biased position" – said the Minister.

At the same time Temur Iakobashvili, Deputy Prime Minister of the Georgian government and State Minister for Reintegration accused Luchterhandt and Langton of financial connections with Gazprom that according to him "are easy to determine". "A few days after the end of the military actions one of them wrote that invasion of the Russian Armed Forces into Gori was justified. How would such a person have been able to prepare an impartial assessment after all that?" – said the State minister – "It is best for the commission to get rid of such people".

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