British officials stayed in a 5-star Russian hotel used by Snowden
British officials continued to attempt “soft power” in Russia by hosting a wallpaper show and staying in a five-star hotel in the days before the invasion of Ukraine.
The British government spent thousands of pounds on activities that included a government panel with then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss checking on the Baltschug Kempinski in Moscow.
The £589.94 bill for February 8 is listed as “the foreign minister’s group hotel accommodation” ahead of his meeting with his Kremlin counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, according to newly released data.
The imperial-era monument offers “spectacular views of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral,” according to its website.
Located on the banks of the Moskva River, the Kempinski has the distinction of being the first international five-star hotel in post-Soviet Russia.
In 2014, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden gave a five-hour interview to NBC News at the hotel and six years later Russian spy Anna Chapman gave a session photo for Heat magazine in a room showing the Kremlin in the background. .
Other payments on the British government’s acquisition card show how officials continued cultural and civic activities as Russia continued to mass its forces on the Ukrainian border.
An additional £1,569.61 was spent on February 2 for a legal forum reception in St Petersburg, which is in western Russia on the Baltic Sea.
The bill was incurred at the five-star Lotte Hotel, housed in a historic mansion in the heart of the city.
Another purchase of £635.66 was made on the same day for an event at an ‘official residence’, with payment made to Ivanob IP under the ‘miscellaneous and general retail stores’ category. Ivanov is the usual provider of catering services at the British Embassy in Moscow. No details were released on the type of event.
A day later, £2,378.97 was spent on the ‘British Interior Design Showcase v20’ with a presentation by award-winning artist Sian Zeng.
The event took place at the Deluxe Home Creation showroom in Moscow, according to the list of expenses published by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) after a Freedom of Information Act request from Metro.co.uk.
The expense is listed as “restaurants and bars”, with the vendor named Silver Kejtering.
Zeng traveled to Moscow to showcase her signature wallpaper collection and talk about her designs merging Eastern and Western styles. She made two presentations at the Moscow showroom on February 9, thanking the UK Department for International Trade in Russia on Twitter ahead of the event.
Anglo-Russian relations crumbled as the full-scale invasion approached, with Ms Truss overlooked by Mr Lavrov, Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat, during his visit.
After private talks, he told a press conference, “I’m honestly disappointed that we’re having a conversation between a mute and a deaf.”
Last month, the Kremlin reacted to news of Ms Truss’s resignation as prime minister by saying she would be remembered for her “catastrophic illiteracy”. Foreign Minister Maria Zakharova’s comment is said to be a reference to the former Conservative leader’s two-day trip to Moscow.
The invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 with a barrage of missile strikes and Russian troops made an ill-fated attempt to seize Kyiv.
In October, Ms Truss’ phone was allegedly hacked by Russian agents when she was foreign secretary.
The breach allegedly took place during the Tories’ summer leadership campaign, but was not publicly disclosed until after.
Agents believed to work for Russia were responsible for the alleged hack, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The government declined to comment on the exact case, but said it had “robust systems in place to protect against cyber threats”.
It is understood Ms Truss was not part of the group that stayed at the Kempinski Hotel.
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