BERLIN (AP) — Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is vowing to go ahead with a plan to join the board of directors of Russian oil giant Rosneft, a move that has drawn criticism ahead of his country's election.
Schroeder was close to Russian President Vladimir Putin as chancellor and became involved with a Russian-German gas pipeline project shortly after he left office in 2005, a commitment that has raised questions at home.
Recent reports that he planned to join Rosneft have drawn criticism from conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and also from the leader of Schroeder's own center-left Social Democrats, Martin Schulz — Merkel's challenger in the Sept. 24 election. Polls currently show Schroeder's party trailing Merkel's conservatives by a double-digit margin.
At a campaign appearance Wednesday night, an unapologetic Schroeder said he wants to help secure the energy security of Germany and Europe. He is expected to be elected to the board at the end of September.
"I will do it. This is about my life, and I will determine that, not the German press," news agency dpa quoted him as saying in the northern town of Rotenburg. Asked whether he fears being used by Putin, Schroeder replied that "I am not usable."
"The demonization of Russia helps no one," Schroeder said, adding that Rosneft is not "the extended arm of the Russian government" and that BP and others also hold stakes.
However, Rosneft is among Russian companies that have been hit with European Union sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine. Rosneft and other state-controlled energy firms have been barred from accessing technologies for new projects to prospect and drill for oil and gas.