Sponsor of Kremlin projects nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian army preparing to repel the next offensive by Russian troops, with the support of the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, Putin’s close associate Ruben Vardanyan, declared by official Kyiv to be “an accomplice in the crimes of the Russian authorities against Ukraine,” has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the “development of peace initiatives”.

It is significant that the first to announce his candidacy for this award was the “news agency” Sputnik, one of the main mouthpieces of Kremlin propaganda outside Russia, and the Russian media holding RBK.

The latter belongs to tycoon Grigory Berezkin, who was included in the sanctions lists of the EU, Britain, Canada and Australia, as a “minion” of the Russian President, who “directly contributed to Vladimir Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine and is responsible for the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine”.

Vardanyan himself is known for his leadership of the Russian company Troika Dialog.

According to an investigation by the international consortium OCCRP, money was being secretly transferred through this company to Putin’s close friends. In 2006-2013, more than $4.6 billion passed through the accounts of Vardanyan’s offshore networks. In 2020, the main Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, recently killed by the Kremlin regime, accused Vardanyan of bribery in the amount of about $50 million.

In 2019, 22 members of the European Parliament called on the EU to impose sanctions on him.

In 2022, Vardanyan, like other Putin associates, was included in the draft of new US sanctions.

In June 2023, on the initiative of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), he was included in the Ukrainian database of accomplices of Russian aggression “Myrotvorets” with the following description: “An associate of Russian-fascist invaders and terrorists. An accomplice in the crimes of the Russian authorities against Ukraine and its citizens… is subject to immediate detention and transfer to law enforcement agencies of Ukraine or Nato countries.” The SBU also accused Vardanyan of “financing Russian aggression on post-Soviet territories.”

Two months later, the former head of the Security Council of the Armenian enclave in Karabakh, Samvel Babayan, told Armenian public TV that in 2022-2023 Vardanyan acted as a Russian agent in the South Caucasus.

In 2023 the world’s leading media also reported on Vardanyan’s connections with the Kremlin.

“…There can be no doubt that Vardanyan is the Kremlin’s man, something the Ukrainian government recognized when it imposed sanctions against him,” Politico reported.

According to Forbes, “Vardanyan has Moscow’s blessing…”

The Romanian division of the US weekly Newsweek reported that “while the EU and the United States are fighting for peace in the Caucasus and seeking to reach a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh, Russian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan, who represents the interests of the Kremlin, called on the people to take up arms.”

No less scandalous isThe Washington Times’ data on Vardanyan’s connections with the ayatollah regime, especially against the backdrop of Iran’s public threats against the United States, Britain, France and Germany because of their support for Israel after the Iranian attack on April 13.

Among the findings, the Washington Times reported that “Vardanyan, one of the richest men in Russia, is close to Putin.”

Thus, the nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize of a person closely associated with two dictatorial regimes pursuing aggressive militaristic policies looks not only outrageous, but even blasphemous.

Moreover, until recently, the Nobel Committee, which accepted Vardanyan’s candidacy, had been clinging to a completely opposite position.

As a sign of support for Kyiv in 2022, this committee did not invite the ambassadors of Russia and Belarus to the presentation of the award in Stockholm.

A year later, though, invitations to the Peace Prize ceremony were sent to the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran, but were later withdrawn because of widespread public criticism.

The Nobel Committee’s position is most clearly demonstrated in a press release dated September 2023: “It is important and right to disseminate as widely as possible the values and messages that the Nobel Prize stands for. For example, through last year’s clear political message with the Peace Prize, which was awarded to… Ukrainians who are involved in documenting Russian war crimes.” Thus, the nomination of Vardanyan, who has close ties to Moscow and Tehran, contradicts the position of the Nobel Committee itself.

Taking advantage of the international authority of this committee, Kremlin propagandists are counting on “whitening” Vardanyan in the eyes of the West. If he does receive one of the most prestigious world awards, then under the aura of a “peacemaker”, Moscow will be able to use him again in the future in its intrigues in the South Caucasus.

After all, at the beginning of last year, the Kremlin considered Vardanyan as a real candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Armenia – in the event of the overthrow of the pro-Western Nikol Pashinyan. The ex-minister and former deputy minister  of defence of Armenia spoke almost openly about this, and the Public TV of the republic even put Vardanyan on the “black list” due to attacks on the head of government.

(Photo: Alekset Chalabyan aka Xelgen, via Wikimedia Commons)

Igor Chalenko

Igor Chalenko is an Ukrainian political scientist who heads the Centre for Analysis and Strategies, Ukraine.