In this series of articles, we examine prominent pro-Russian organizations in Europe. Today, we take a closer look at the Public Initiative “Creative Diplomacy” (PICREADI). According to a 2017 study by the British Council at the University of Edinburgh, the organization is considered one of Russia’s top five soft power and public diplomacy agencies.
What is wrong with PICREADI
PICREADI, a Moscow-based organization, was established in 2010. As of July 2022, the United States has imposed sanctions on both PICREADI and its President, Natalya Burlinova. Furthermore, Ukraine has called for sanctions on an academic employed by the organization. PICREADI’s activities have also been characterized as consistent with malign influence.
Key figures and funding
Natalya Burlinova and Nikita Mendkovich are key figures within the Public Initiative “Creative Diplomacy” (PICREADI), a Moscow-based organization. Burlinova has a notable history within Kremlin-backed organizations such as Rosoboronexport, RIA Novosti, the Gorchakov Fund, and Rossotrudnichestvo. The United States Department of Treasury has stated that PICREADI, despite claiming to be independent, is in fact funded and directed by Russia’s intelligence services.
Nikita Mendkovich, who is no longer associated with PICREADI, has had his work financed by the Gorchakov Fund and promoted by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which was involved in drafting a proposal for interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The Ukrainian National Agency on Corruption Prevention has called for sanctions against Mendkovich, accusing him of supporting actions that undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, as well as stability and security in Ukraine.
How dangerous are such organizations?
Russian Nonprofit organizations, whether directly or indirectly, that are involved in money laundering, reputational manipulation, narrative control, or criminal activity, can have a corrosive effect on the European nonprofit sector. Furthermore, any Russian NGO engaged in such practices can be used as a tool for weaponized kleptocracy to undermine Western institutions.
In past articles, we have highlighted the Association known as Franco-Russe Dialogue, which has been instrumental in increasing Russian influence in France.