Gorchakov Fund: How Russian oligarchs create Russia beyond its borders

In this series of articles, we examine prominent pro-Russian organizations in Europe. Today, we look closely at The Alexander Gorchakov’s Public Policy Fund. He helps to build a favorable cultural climate for Russia outside of its borders. He does it in such a way that he fund himself under the sanctions by the European Union, Belgium, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Also, this Fund is overseen by multiple sanctioned personalities as well as those involved in criminal activity and provides financial support to other sanctioned groups and high-risk organizations.

What’s wrong with Gorchakov Fund?

The Alexander Gorchakov Public Policy Fund is a Russian state fund founded in 2010 in Moscow by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a decree from the President of Russia (in 2010 – Dmitry Medvedev).

Creating a favorable climate for Russian interests abroad and cultivating “soft power” is a relatively innocuous goal. But there exists a fundamental difference between conventional “soft power” and certain activities supported by the Gorchakov Fund such as laundering narratives that entail genocide denial and where possible fostering Kremlin-grown narratives that lay the groundwork for malign influence campaigns and supporting organizations that employ pernicious methods, and are often themselves sanctioned and/or criminally-linked. For example, Public Initiative “Creative Diplomacy” (PICREADI) about which we also have already written.

Key figures and funding: Vladimir Yakunin, Ruben Vardanyan, Alisher Usmanov, Sergei Lavrov.

We mentioned Vladimir Yakunin more than once in our articles. However, let’s keep in mind that he is a sanctioned oligarch, a prior KGB intelligence officer from the First Main Directorate (Foreign Intelligence Data Collection), and former Russian Railway (RZhD) magnate. Yakunin was involved in the Moldovan scandal that saw the authorities initiate legal proceedings “for money laundering, presumably from the budget of the Russian Federation, in an amount exceeding 20 billion U.S. dollars”.

Ruben Vardanyan is the former CEO and principal partner of Troika Dialog. Troika eventually grew into Russia’s largest investment bank. However, from 2006 to early 2013, while under the leadership of Mr. Vardanyan, it enabled nearly $5 billion to flow through offshore companies in what has become known as the Troika Laundromat. The laundry probably worked to launder money for Putin’s close circle and influential oligarchs.

Ruben Vardanyan

Alisher Usmanov is an oligarch and media/communications magnate who is in the sanctions lists by no less than the US, UK, Australia, Canada, the EU, Belgium, Japan, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

Alisher Usmanov

Sergei Lavrov has been the Foreign Minister of Russia since 2004.

Sergei Lavrov

Gorchakov is financed only partially by the Russian state. According to the Wilfred Martens Center Fund also financed by trustees‘ presumably gathered from the oligarchs and other figures within its leadership structure.

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 NPO and Nonprofit organizations engaged in such practices can be used as a tool for weaponized kleptocracy to undermine Western institutions.

In previous articles, we’ve talked about:

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