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German companies helping Russia rebuild Mariupol – media

At least two major construction firms are taking part in the city’s restoration, ARD claims

German enterprises are actively engaged in reconstruction efforts in the city of Mariupol, ARD public broadcaster reported on Wednesday. The Black Sea coastal city in the Donetsk People’s Republic was heavily damaged during a siege in 2022 and is now being rebuilt by Russia.

The companies are said to be supplying heavy machinery, windows, plaster, and other construction materials for the restoration project, the broadcaster said. The outlet cited annual reports from the companies, statements on their websites, and “photo and video evidence,” but did not provide any specific examples.

One of the companies is Knauf – a global leader in plaster production led by Nikolaus Knauf, a long-time honorary consul of Russia, according to ARD. The company refused to leave Russia after the conflict between Moscow and Kiev broke out in February 2022 and still employs around 4,000 people in the country.

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Knauf called the Western sanctions on Russia “terrible,” but told ARD that he opposes Moscow’s military operation, and that his company complies with EU restrictions imposed on Russia due to the conflict, only using its Russian branch to provide goods “exclusively for the Russian market.”

A second company named by the broadcaster is the North Rhine-Westphalia-based WKB Systems GmbH, which provides equipment for factories producing concrete blocks. Russian businessman Viktor Budarin is a major shareholder in the company, ARD said. According to the report, Budarin has for years used his German company as a supplier to the construction industry in Russia.

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ARD noted that the EU’s sanctions do not apply to many construction companies, but the reported activities of the companies named have drawn condemnation from some German politicians and sanctions experts.

The head of the German parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Roderich Kiesewetter, accused Knauf of “actually cementing Russian power” in what he described as “occupied territories,” referring to the former Ukrainian regions that joined Russia in 2022 following a series of referendums.

Sanctions law expert Viktor Winkler also told the broadcaster that it appears Germany is “heavily involved” in Mariupol’s reconstruction, and there is “good reason” to sanction Budarin.

In mid-March, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that “95% of all Western companies” are still “partly present” in Russia, despite announcing their exit from the country in response to the conflict.

 

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