Gazprom’s extensive network of loyalists, often act as "men of sacrifice," devoted to cleansing the image of the Russian state owned gas monopoly. Working out of a modern office building in Berlin owned by Gazprom Germania, a German registered company fully owned by Gazprom Export which, in turn is run by Gazprom, they have built up a considerable empire for the Kremlin. In turn they are being whitewashed by other loyalists in the offices of Brussels-based PR firm GPlus Europe.
Gazprom Germania has affiliates and subsidiaries in around 20 countries in Europe and Asia as well as within the United States. In 2007 Burghard Bergmann, the former head of the German energy company, E.On, and a member of Gazprom’s board of directors, demanded that this company be liquidated since he saw no reason for its existence (Kommersant, October 31, 2007). The Russian side arrogantly refused and this curious company continues to function.
The founder of Gazprom Germania is Hans-Joachim Gornig, the former deputy chief executive of the German Democratic Republic’s gas and oil industry. In 1990 Gornig convinced the then head of Gazprom, Viktor Chernomyrdin, to establish Gazprom Germania. This might have been a new scheme by two old comrades to insure Russian hegemony over the newly unified Germany and maximize profits, or an effort to secure the supply of Russian gas as Germany’s only hope of maintaining its booming industrial strength.
But Gornig is not only the managing director of Gazprom Germania, he is also the manager of ZMB GmbH, a subsidiary of Gazprom Germania since 1993. Furthermore, Gornig is suspected of fraud and embezzlement. In 2008 the German media reported that Gornig arranged contracts between ZMB GmbH, with the company Gasconsult GmbH in which he was the co-owner. According to the conditions of the contracts, amounting to 1 million Euros, Gasconsult GmbH was to provide communication and PR services to the ordering party. However, in reality these services were provided by the employees of Gazprom Germania (Der Spiegel, August 25, 2008). Gazprom and Gazprom Germania refused to comment on the allegations within the German media (www.russia-ic.com, August 25, 2008).
To ensure an "impartial" resolution of the matter, Russian investigators were dispatched to conduct an internal audit of Gazprom Germania, but the results were not publicly disclosed. The German prosecutor’s office could not act on the case, since no-one had filed a complaint. Finally a Russian "overseer" was appointed as the co-manager of the company: Andrei Biryulin, (a manager at Gazprom Marketing and Trading Ltd, another subsidiary of Gazprom Germania).
Gazprom Germania has also been plagued by charges that some of its highest level managers were former agents of the notorious East German Security Service, the Stasi. Felix Strehober, the financial director of Gazprom Germania, came under investigation in May 2008 for allegedly lying about his past as a former East German spy, according to Cologne chief prosecutor Guenther Feld. More than 100 documents from the Stasi archives were uncovered accusing him of working with state security, while he was a student in East Berlin. Strehober, who studied in Moscow from 1978 to 1982, joined the Stasi in 1985 and worked for the feared East German secret police until 1989 (DPA, May, 7 2008). Strehober was fined for hiding his past, but no verdict was reached and his case was suspended.
Gazprom Germania’s director for personnel and organizational matters, Hans-Uve Kreher, was an informal employee of the Stasi and collaborated with the organization under the operative pseudonyms of Roland Schroeder and Hartmann. Kreher himself does not deny that he had worked with the Stasi. A company spokesman declared that they knew about his past, however, he added that "we are not an enterprise penetrated by Stasi agents" (Die Welt, February 11).
The GPlus Europe team of Gazprom loyalists working the Gazprom account is an assorted, but highly well-connected group. Their mission is to portray Gazprom and its affiliated companies as fully transparent entities. The team consists of fourteen individuals, all funded by Gazprom Export with four members concentrating on PR within Germany alone. The rest have responsibilities for PR within the rest of Europe. The head of the Germany team is Peter Witt, formerly Germany’s deputy permanent representative to the EU.
A leading member of the Gazprom team is Gregor Kreuzhuber who, according to the GPlus Europe website: "Spent over ten years in the European Commission as a spokesperson and political adviser to two different Commissioners. His last post was with Commission Vice-President in charge of Enterprise and Industry Gunter Verheugen" (www.gpluseurope.com, May 23).
Another member of the Gazprom network in Brussels is Daniel Brinkwerth: "Prior to coming to Brussels, Daniel worked with both the German Foreign Affairs and Economics Ministries, and did a stint at the German Embassy in Tokyo. He assisted research projects at the German Council on Foreign Relations looking into the impact of globalization on national sovereignty and of the Free University of Berlin into tools for policy analysis" (www.gpluseurope.com, May 23).
The third influential member of the Gazprom team in Brussels is Julius Freytag von Loringhoven who joined GPlus Europe in 2008 from the European Government Affairs office of BP, where he was working as an advisor on energy and climate change. He is a specialist in energy policies, renewable energies, electricity and gas markets, the European Emissions Trading Scheme and on questions of energy security (www.gpluseurope.com, May 23).
There is no doubt that these highly qualified, well connected and very bright individuals employed by GPlus Europe and Gazprom Germania serve a vital purpose in creating an illusion that Gazprom is honorable and transparent, and that it is indispensible for European energy security. As the point men for Putin and Alexander Medvedev, the head of Gazprom Export, who pays their salaries, they are indeed "men of sacrifice" working for a cause which lead to the energy subjugation of the EU by a shady clan within the Kremlin.