Dhe summer of 2020 was not a good time for planespotters. There were fewer planes to be seen in the sky than usual, and the number of flight movements was restricted due to the pandemic. On September 15, 2020, however, a plane spotter was lucky: he caught the landing of an Embraer Legacy with the number RA-02858 at Hanover Airport. The private jet, painted in the Russian national colors of white, blue and red, took off from the VIP terminal at Moscow Airport. A high-ranking delegation was on board on a discreet mission to Lower Saxony.
Two days later, the passengers of the private jet met Prime Minister Stephan Weil in the Hanover State Chancellery. The Russian side was represented, among others, by Minister Sergei Cherjomin, responsible for international relations in the Moscow regional government, and Dmitry Zubov, CEO of the Russian pharmaceutical company Binnopharm.
From the State Chancellery there is only general information
The meeting was not listed in the public calendar of the state government. That is not unusual, writes the State Chancellery when asked by the FAZ and largely remains silent about the content of the 70-minute conversation. It is generally said that “in addition to the pandemic” it was about “issues” in the relationship between Lower Saxony and Russia. Lower Saxony’s diplomatic relations with other states are “fundamentally confidential”.
The journey leads back to the complicated German-Russian relationship at that time. During the pandemic, the SPD politician Stephan Weil belonged to the ranks of prime ministers alongside Markus Söder and the East German heads of government who temporarily flirted with importing the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.
Weil flirted with Russian vaccine Sputnik V
The CSU politician Söder and Weil’s party friend Manuela Schwesig dared to go particularly far, although the Russian vector vaccine had not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency – and never received it. Because Russia presented promising data on Sputnik V and also used the vaccine as a means of its foreign policy. However, statisticians repeatedly referred to anomalies in the data on Sputnik and suspected manipulation there.
In Russia, on the other hand, Sputnik was approved in mid-August 2020 before the start of the third study phase, i.e. a few weeks before the Moscow visit to the Lower Saxony State Chancellery. The Russian pharmaceutical company Binnopharm was one of the four producers of the vaccine. The State Chancellery reports that the meeting with the Binnopharm boss did not discuss importing Sputnik V, for which Prime Minister Weil was open a few months later.
The trip nevertheless had a connection to pharmaceuticals, because during their stay the delegation also visited the Göttingen company Sartorius, which, according to a company spokesman, cooperated with Binnopharm in vaccine production.
When asked, the state government replied that the then Russian Honorary Consul in Hanover, Heino Wiese, played no role in the initiation of the delegation’s trip from Moscow. The former Lower Saxony SPD state manager and member of the Bundestag has been a confidant of Gerhard Schröder for many years and, with the consulting firm Wiese Consult he founded, is considered a key figure in the social-democratic Moscow connection. Prime Minister Weil has also repeatedly enhanced the Russian events of his long-time acquaintance Heino Wiese through his presence.
And again Honorary Consul Heino Wiese appears
According to FAZ research, one month after the private jet landed, Wiese met Carola Reimann (SPD), Health Minister of Lower Saxony at the time, for lunch in October 2020. The ministry confirms that shortly after the meeting there was an e-mail exchange between Wiese Consult and the ministry, which dealt with Corona, among other things. However, Reimann, now head of the AOK federal association, says that she did not speak to Wiese about Russia or vaccines. The meeting with Wiese was a “private lunch”.