Mercedes-Benz backs out as sponsor of pro-Kremlin camp

14th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

German car maker Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday said it would no longer sponsor a summer camp held by a pro-Kremlin youth group, becoming the second international sponsor to quit amid a media storm.

The annual camp of Nashi, or Ours in Russian, packs in high-profile speakers and is allocated millions of rubles from the state budget. Thousands of Nashi members attend and even take part in mass weddings.

Mercedes-Benz sponsored last year's event and was listed on the website of the summer camp to be held at Lake Seliger this year as the sponsor of a section called Innovations and Technical Creativity.

But the head of Mercedes-Benz's Russian PR service, Andrei Rodionov, told AFP the company was not going to be involved, saying it planned to take part in a major investment forum in Saint Petersburg instead.

"Last year we gave two or three cars," he said. "This year we are not taking part in Seliger... We have other projects, in particular participating in the Saint Petersburg economic forum."

The denial came after influential Vlast weekly news magazine highlighted the international sponsors of the event in an investigation that prompted Italian stationery company Moleskine pull out as a sponsor of an art section.

"We did not think it was all so politicised," the company's PR manager in Russia, Maria Rogaleva told Vlast magazine.

Nashi spokeswoman Kristina Potupchik later accused journalists of "moral terror" in her blog.

The Seliger forum last year depicted public figures such as veteran rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva and jailed oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Nazi caps in an exhibition titled "You are not welcome here," prompting widespread disgust.

The website for the forum, to be held July 1 to August 2 with around 20,000 participants, currently lists several global sponsors including US household goods brand Tupperware and French energy company Schneider Electric.

© 2011 AFP

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