German businessman Clemens Toennies, who had been working in the interests of Vladimir Putin for years, sparked a serious scandal. Throughout this time, Toennies had close relations with Putin and, according to Reuters, would “gift the dictator a cured pork knuckle at every meeting.” In 2017, during the ongoing war, advertisements promoting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were displayed at Schalke matches.
Concerns were raised by citizens regarding the dependency on Russian gas, especially considering that the project had not yet received final regulatory approval from the German authorities. Various businessmen and politicians were invited to the VIP box at Schalke matches from a list compiled by Gazprom’s Berlin office. Clemens himself expanded his business into Russia and established trading capabilities in the meat industry.
According to two of his business partners, “Toennies’ relations with Putin and others ensured that the firms he controlled were rolled out the ‘red carpet’.” These companies received over 100 million euros in credits and grants from Russian state banks and Russia itself. One five-year credit from state-owned Sberbank was secured with the help of a pig meet, according to documents. Reuters was unable to determine the value of the loan.
However, Toennies severed ties with Russia. How did this happen?
Schalke terminated its sponsorship agreement with Gazprom just four days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Schalke reported overall losses of 19.4 million euros for the year 2022, which it described as “extremely challenging” due to the loss of Gazprom’s sponsorship support and the pandemic. Despite significantly reducing its budget in recent years, Schalke stated that it still faces financial liabilities amounting to 141.5 million euros.
A year after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by occupiers, the businessman changed his position.
The German emphasizes that he never had personal relations with Putin. Moreover, after 2022, he closed his business in Russia and provided employment to dozens of Ukrainian refugees at his meat processing plant in Germany.