Monday, September 29, 2014

To Russia With Love

Kaufmann, NYT
SEPT. 29, 2014

It’s not only the actor Gérard Depardieu, his new residency in Saransk, Mordovia, where he benefits from a 6 percent income tax rate as a “private entrepreneur” and his antics about how proud he is to have become Russian. Less colorful friends of Russia have been quite vocal in France lately, in a sign of the divisions that the conflict over Ukraine has created among the French elite.

When Sergei Naryshkin, the president of the Duma, the Russian Parliament’s lower house, came to Paris on Sept. 1, he had no problem meeting with French businessmen and legislators, even though he is not supposed to set foot in France: Mr. Naryshkin is one of 119 Russian and Ukrainian individuals targeted by waves of European Union sanctions.

A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, he was in fact the guest of the Council of Europe, an international organization based in Strasbourg. Russia is a member, and the French government had no choice but to let him into the country for two days. He certainly made the most of it: The Council of Europe was pretty low on his agenda. The highlight of his visit was a packed conference hosted by the Russian ambassador in Paris, where C.E.O.s of French companies with big investments in Russia and 10 members of the French National Assembly and senators from various political parties listened to his presentation of the “internal conflict” in Ukraine. Several of them in turn voiced their complaints about the European sanctions.

Ten days later, a group of 14 French legislators was in Moscow, again meeting Mr. Naryshkin and his Duma colleagues. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund who sits on the board of two Russian banks, is another visitor to Moscow and critic of sanctions.

(More here.)

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