Nyet, Sir An­gus!

Politi­cians crit­i­cise grandee Grossart for accepting medal from Vladimir Putin fol­low­ing Skri­pal as­sas­si­na­tion plot

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Kather­ine Suther­land

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

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