Who is Nord Stream’s Matthias Warnig, Putin’s friend from East Germany?
By Roman Goncharenko. 25.1.2021
Alexei Navalny’s investigative video about “Putin’s Palace” has been viewed millions of times. It mentions many Russians — and one German. How is Matthias Warnig, a business manager and former Stasi agent, involved?
Matthias Warnig is, in various ways, an exceptional person. The 65-year-old is the oldest German friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the most active German in Russian business circles. He is a former Stasi agent who became a banker in the 1990s. Since then, he has sat on the supervisory boards of numerous German-Russian banks and companies.
He is currently the CEO of Nord Stream 2, and happens to play a part in the latest YouTube video by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), in which Russian opposition activists uncover an extensive network of corruption around the construction of a palatial estate for the Russian president on the Black Sea coast.
In the video, Navalny mentions Warnig when talking about an exchange of letters between Putin’s ex-wife Lyudmila and a German friend of hers in the mid-1990s. One of the letters was sent from Warnig’s fax machine. The Russian opposition leader, citing a DW article, says that Warnig gave financial assistance to Putin, a former KGB officer in Dresden, and his family. It’s thought the two may have met through their respective secret services in the former East Germany, but the official line is that they only made contact later, in St. Petersburg, after both had changed profession.
Meeting Putin ‘not a problem’
Warnig likes to avoid publicity. He prefers to operate in the background. The Austrian newspaper Die Presse published an interview with him in 2018, in which he was asked how often he meets Putin. Warnig answered that the Russian president didn’t have a mobile phone, before adding: “But if I want something and need to see him, we arrange it.”
In the 20 years Putin has ruled Russia, Warnig has become the most influential German business manager in the Russian economy.
In Die Presse, Warnig said he had accepted these positions for two reasons, which were both coincidental and mutually dependent. “I accepted most of the seats on supervisory boards in 2012,” he said. “Nord Stream 1 was completed in 2012, and my contract was about to run out. So I was open to taking on new assignments. At the same time there was a conflict between the then president, Dmitri Medvedev, and the government. Medvedev decreed that all ministers and senior civil servants had to give up their positions on supervisory boards. And then they needed people to fill these posts.”
He dismissed speculation that, as Putin’s confidant, he exercised a degree of control over the running of the business. “No, absolutely not. I’m not a Kremlin mouthpiece. And I don’t report to the Kremlin, either, or have cozy chats about what goes on there.”