February 21. 2024. 7:26

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Germany could sell airport to Putin-friendly Russian billionaire

Germany’s Economy Ministry is currently deciding whether to block the acquisition of the insolvent Hahn airport by Russian investor Viktor Charitonin, who is considered close to the Kremlin.

Charitonin is the highest bidder for the purchase of the regional airport, which went into insolvency in late 2021. However, the ministry could still block the deal on the condition that it deems the airport part of the country’s critical infrastructure.

The ministry, led by Green Vice-Chancellor and Economy and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck, is currently examining whether this is the case, Parliamentary Undersecretary Franziska Brantner said in front of the parliament’s economic affairs committee on Wednesday.

While Brantner pointed out that Charitonin is not on the EU’s sanctions list, she said an examination of the purchase by the ministry was still necessary due to the billionaire’s business being based outside the EU.

Charitonin, who is mainly active in the pharmaceutical sector, is seen as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his company is thought to be the largest producer of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V.

He also already owns the Nürburgring, a large motorsport complex in the German region of Rhineland-Palatinate.

While not sanctioned by the EU, Charitonin is featured on the US Finance Ministry’s list of leading Russian government members and oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

What makes the potential purchase especially delicate is the fact that the Hahn airport is a former military airport previously used by US troops. This means that the facilities are suitable for the transport of military goods and personnel.

(Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.de)