BERLIN (Reuters) – Berlin public prosecutors said on Monday they had launched a preliminary investigation into Russky Dom, a cultural promotion organisation in Berlin that is part of a Russian government agency subject to European Union sanctions.
Early this month, a Reuters investigation revealed that, despite the sanctions, Russky Dom – which means “Russian House” – had purchased airline tickets for two pro-Russia activists living in Germany to travel to a Kremlin-backed conference in Moscow.
“I can confirm that a complaint was filed in relation to the ‘Russian House’ and that an investigation was initiated,” Karen Sommer, a spokeswoman for the Berlin prosecutors’ office said in an emailed response to Reuters queries.
She did not answer specific Reuters questions on the content of the investigation, or what had prompted it, saying that the probe was at a preliminary stage and no further information could be shared for the moment.
German news agency DPA quoted a different representative of the Berlin prosecutor’s office as saying the investigation was into whether Russian House violated Germany’s foreign trade and payments law, through which EU sanctions are enforced.
Entities subject to EU sanctions often have their assets frozen or face restrictions on conducting financing transactions inside EU jurisdiction.
An official at Russky Dom in Berlin directed Reuters inquiries to a spokesman. He did not answer repeated calls to his telephone. Rossotrudnichestvo, the Russian government’s cultural promotion agency, lists Russky Dom in Berlin as one of its representative offices. Rossotrudnichestvo did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.
Rossotrudnichestvo was placed under EU sanctions in July 2022 for running what the bloc described as a network of “agents of influence” spreading Kremlin narratives. Its head has branded the sanctions as “insane.”
The Reuters investigation in January showed how a group of pro-Moscow activists in Germany were organising protests online and in public to argue against Berlin’s support for Ukraine.
Two of those activists, Elena Kolbasnikova and Max Schlund, had planned to fly to Moscow in December to attend an event co-organised by the Russian government. In a post on an online chatroom Kolbasnikova said the “sponsor” for the plane tickets was Russky Dom.
Grigory Mikhitaryants, an official at Russky Dom, told Reuters at the time his organisation had obtained tickets for two people to travel to Moscow for the event, but declined to give their names. In the end, Schlund and Kolbasnikova did not travel to Moscow because, Kolbasnikova said, they missed their flight.
(Reporting by Mari Saito and Polina Nikolskaya; editing by Frank Jack Daniel)