German prosecutors’ investigation targets “Russian House” in Berlin

The German capital’s Russian House of Science and Culture (Russisches Haus der Wissenschaft und Kultur) is the subject of an inquiry by the Berlin prosecutor’s office. 

According to Sebastian Büchner, a department representative, the DPA agency reported on Friday, January 20, that the organization’s operations would be investigated for potential violations of the law on foreign commercial activity.

According to his statements, the former Green Party politician Volker Beck has filed a complaint. It cannot be that a cultural branch sanctioned by the EU in Germany is spreading Kremlin propaganda while people are dying daily in the war in Ukraine, he told the DPA. Possible omissions by the responsible Berlin authorities in enforcing sanctions must also be checked. First, the legal specialist portal Legal Tribune Online (LTO) reported on Beck’s ad.

Prosecutor’s office launched an inquiry into “Russian House” activities

The Berlin public prosecutor’s office has initiated preliminary proceedings regarding the “Russian House” activities in the capital. Authorities spokesman Sebastian Büchner said on Friday that the science and culture center operation was being checked to see whether it violated the Foreign Trade and Payments Act, without giving any further details.

The investigation will be conducted in the context of the EU sanctions against Russia because of its war in Ukraine. According to media reports, a Russian state agency is on an EU sanctions list as the facility’s operator.

Previous protests at the Russian House

On October 22, several large and small street actions took place in Berlin, including a pro-Russian car rally and a playful “referendum” organized by Ukrainian activists. Moreover, the Ukrainians gathered three times more people for their action than the Russian-speaking participants in the rally.

Almost simultaneously with the pro-Russian rally in the very center of the city, on Friedrichstrasse, a satirical action of Ukrainian activists started – a parodic form of “referendum” on the issue of transferring the Russian House of Science and Culture (Russisches Haus der Wissenschaft und Kultur), owned by the Russian state structure Rossotrudnichestvo, to Ukrainian property. Rossotrudnichestvo is on the sanctions list.

Sanctions avoidance

The “Russian House of Science and Culture” is subject to EU sanctions, even if the Berlin authorities have been inactive. In the Sanctions Enforcement Act II, responsibility has meanwhile been transferred to the federal government. The ex-deputy Volker Beck (Greens) has filed criminal charges against those responsible for the Russian House.

EU sanctions list include Rossotrudnichestvo and Russian World Foundation

On July 21, 2022, the European Union introduced the seventh set of sanctions against Russia after the start of the military operation in Ukraine. The list of sanctions included: Rossotrudnichestvo and the Russian World Foundation. 

The Russian House is located in Berlin-Mitte. The cultural center states that its activities aim to develop cultural, humanitarian, and scientific-educational relations between Russia and Germany and promote Russian culture and language. 

However, in the context of the EU sanctions against Russia for its war of aggression against Ukraine, the promotion of Russian views, which often turn to be propaganda and disinformation, has gained a new aspect.

The Russian Federal Agency for the Affairs of the CIS, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo), which manages “Russian House,” is included in the sanctions lists of the European Union. 

As previously noted by the German legal portal LTO, “Russian House” as a resource of “Rossotrudnichestvo” does not have the right to receive income in the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, from the sale of tickets for events or the leasing of premises.

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