Nyet, Sir Angus!
Politicians criticise grandee Grossart for accepting medal from Vladimir Putin following Skripal assassination plot
ONE of Scotland’s most influential businessmen has been criticised for accepting an honour from the Kremlin.
Financier Sir Angus Grossart – whose personal wealth is estimated to be £250 million – was awarded the Pushkin Medal by Russian president Vladimir Putin at a ceremony in Moscow last Sunday.
A video showing Mr Putin pinning the decoration to Sir Angus’s lapel has been shared on the website of the Russian Embassy in London.
But the award was criticised by opposition politicians in Scotland.
Scottish Tory MP Colin Clark said: ‘Sir Angus has an exemplary record in the arts and fostering relations between Scotland and the rest of the world. But any award of this kind has to be transparent. It must be detached from politics.
‘Sadly, given the unanswered questions over the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and the links between state broadcaster Russia Today and the SNP, I’m not sure that’s possible at this time.’
Lib Dem MSP Alex ColeHamilton said: ‘Building cultural relationships is always important, even with countries we have tensions with.
‘However, people in positions of influence, like Angus, have to ensure they act transparently, particularly at a time of heightened concerns about Russian influence in Western democracy.’
While National Galleries of Scotland chairman, Sir Angus welcomed a collection from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
The Pushkin Medal, named after
Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, is an official Russian Federation award.
In 2014, Hans Boland, a Dutch translator of Russian literature, refused to accept it, describing Putin as ‘a very great danger to freedom and peace on our planet’.
Sir Angus’s acceptance of the award was filmed by Russia Today and an accompanying statement on the Embassy website read: ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded Sir Angus Grossart with the Medal of Pushkin for his contribution to strengthening peace, friendship, co-operation and mutual understanding between Russia and Great Britain.’
In the film, Sir Angus is seen ascending a stage in a spectacular gold ballroom. After Putin pins the medal to his lapel, the two men smile and shake hands before Sir Angus begins his speech.
He says: ‘Mr President, my interest in Russian culture and history comes through reading and public positions I have held which have provided me with much cultural contact with Russia.
‘Pushkin’s great poem The Commander celebrates one of my heroes, Marshal Barclay de Tolly. His Scottish family seat was Towie Barclay Castle, near Aberdeen.
‘And did you know, Mr President, that Chekhov was so devoted to Russia’s first department store, Muir and Mirrilees, set up by two Scotsmen, that he named his two dogs Muir and Mirrilees? Walking past that shop this morning, now anonymously named Tsum, I had the respectful thought, Mr President, that the pre-Revolutionary name, Muir and Mirrilees, might be restored by presidential decree.
‘Many Scots have contributed to Russian life, including Admiral Greig, commander of your navy, John Paul Jones, the great mariner, Charles Cameron, architect of Catherine the Great, and General Gordon, Potemkin’s Commander in the Field.
‘So, Mr President, it is with a particular sense of our shared history and culture that I thank you warmly for this great and unexpected honour.’
But Sir Angus did not respond to a request for comment from this newspaper.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: ‘Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, continue to undermine Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order.’
CEREMONY: Sir Angus Grossart shakes hands with Vladimir Putin after receiving the Pushkin Medal, circled
POISONED: Former spy Sergei Skripal was attacked in the UK