BRUSSELS -- A close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been disinvited from a conference funded by the European Union hours after his participation was revealed.
Vladimir Yakunin, who was placed under U.S. sanctions in 2014 for his role in the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, was scrapped from the speakers’ list at the event, Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, confirmed on February 15.
The move comes after BuzzFeed reported a day earlier that Yakunin, who used to head the Russian railway monopoly, was to speak on February 27 on a panel in Brussels titled Against The Nationalist Tide: A Role For EU Cultural And Science Diplomacy.
Yakunin currently runs the Dialogue Of Civilizations think tank.
The Brussels event is being organized by the European Leadership in Cultural, Science, and Innovation Diplomacy (EL-CSID), a project that receives funds from the EU.
It will take place at the Albert Borschette conference center in Brussels, which is listed as an official EU Commission building.
When asked about the use of the building during the European Commission’s daily press briefing, spokesperson Alexander Winterstein said that “most of the meetings there are meetings either organized by the commission or stakeholders with which the commission is in touch,” but that he “wouldn’t rule out at all that you can rent meeting space there.”