Jean-Claude Knebeler, former Luxembourg ambassador to Russia, remained based in Moscow after the end of this mandate Libarary photo: Marie De Decker

Jean-Claude Knebeler, former Luxembourg ambassador to Russia, remained based in Moscow after the end of this mandate Libarary photo: Marie De Decker

More Luxembourg officials are coming under scrutiny after former ministers Etienne Schneider and Jeannot Krecké resigned from their board posts at Russian businesses.

Ex-economy minister and deputy PM Schneider (LSAP) faced criticism over his seat on the board of Sistema after a series of former ministers from EU countries stepped down from Russian companies. After initially defending his mandate, Schneider resigned on Sunday together with Krecké (LSAP), who sat on the board of East-West United Bank, part of the Sistema group.

The conglomerate is owned by Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a billionaire who is also an honorary consul for Luxembourg in Russia.

But the pair aren’t the only Luxembourg officials with ties to Russian firms.

As RTL first reported, a member of Luxembourg’s council of state, Patrick Santer, sits on the board of directors of Sodrugestvo, a Luxembourg-based agro-industrial group owned by Alexander Lutsenko.

Lutsenko’s net worth is listed as $1.2bn by Forbes.

Santer is the vice-president of Luxembourg’s Council of State. The body reviews all draft laws submitted to parliament for their compliance with Luxembourg’s constitution and compatibility with other laws and treaties. It can issue formal oppositions, which effectively prevent a law from being voted in parliament before amendments are made.

A former member of parliament for the CSV, Santer chairs the council’s economics and finance committee. He is joined on the Sodrugestvo group’s board by Jean Claude Knebeler, Luxembourg’s ambassador to Russia from 2016 to 2020.

Knebeler stayed in Moscow after the end of his mandate and formally resigned from the civil service in 2021. In addition to his mandate at Sodrugestvo, he advises Gazprombank as an independent member of its sustainability council. He also chairs Moscow-based ExactFarming, a platform to manage agriculture business.

The war in Ukraine has come to highlight some of the close business ties between Luxembourg and Russia. None of the entities cited--Sistema, EWUB and Sodrugestvo--or their owners are subject to international sanctions.

But the EU on Monday slapped sanctions on the founder of Luxembourg-headquartered investment firm LetterOne, Mikhail Fridman. The oligarch is described as “a top Russian financier and enabler of Putin’s inner circle.”

The businessman said he would , calling them “spurious and unfounded”.

Luxembourg is rethinking its diplomatic ties with Russia, too, effective immediately. The Russian conductor is considered a close friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin and in 2014 had signed an appeal supporting the annexation of Crimea.

The mandates of three other honorary consults--Russian billionaires Yevtushenkov, Viktor Rashnikov and Roman Trotsenko are also up for review, foreign minister Jean Asselborn (LSAP) said on Tuesday.