In recent days, former Merah politician Hendrik Weber, 45, has met with a number of top politicians in Russia.
Dagbladet has previously charted Weber’s ties to Russia and revealed he has close ties to politicians close to Putin in Russia and in occupied eastern Ukraine.
He is a board member of an organization that supports the invasion of Ukraine and has traveled in the occupied territories several times.
It emerged from Russian company documents, social media posts, blog posts and organizational documents that Dagbladet had examined.
Now the former politician has traveled to Moscow to meet some of the top politicians and was presented with a medal of friendship from Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko.
He was awarded the prize by Russian authorities on September 10, 2021, he wrote in a post on Facebook.
– Don’t see any point in interrupting contact
Weber has been open about his pro-Russian views for several years. Among other things, he is known as the champion of the occupation of Crimea.
Two days before Russia invaded Ukraine, he congratulated Russia on social media for recognizing the Ukrainian territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent territories.
However, he has several times after, including the other way around NRKsaid he did not support the invasion.
In an email to Dagbladet, Weber wrote that this was his first trip to Moscow and Crimea after the invasion.
– The goal is to meet my friends and colleagues in the Crimea and in Moscow. Besides, this was a great opportunity to finally receive a friendship medal in person. I held several formal and informal meetings with, for example, the University of Crimea to discuss future collaborative projects, Weber wrote to Dagbladet.
He further wrote that he believed the invasion was not a good enough reason to cut off contact with their ties in Russia and in Crimea.
– I’ve been working with these politicians and organizations since 2016. While I don’t support everything that’s going on, I don’t see any point in interrupting contact. It is important to maintain dialogue, even if someone disagrees on all areas.
Among other things, Weber attended a meeting with the first deputy chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Dzhabarov. Among other things, they are said to have spoken about the situation in Ukraine.
In a pers conference Congratulations Weber on the Friendship Medal.
“The Russian president greatly appreciates your contribution to the development of friendly relations between Russia and Norway,” Dzhabarov said in a press release.
Produced as a member of parliament
Hendrik Weber was elected in 2019 as Rødt’s sole representative on the city council in the municipality of Alver in Nordhordland, but has now been expelled from the party.
He was never a key politician in Norway.
This is how he is portrayed in the Russian media, where, according to Iver Dale at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, he has long been described as a member of parliament.
Weber is said to have stayed away from the Russian public for a while, before he was pulled out again, referred to as a former politician.
– He gets a lot of attention in the Russian media every day for now, as well as on channels targeting the population in the occupied Crimea and in the Donbass. He does what they ask, like shows up in meetings, so the Russians can say “Look, there are people in the West who support us”, Dale told Dagbladet.
According to expert advisers, the Russian authorities always have a “gang” of people like Weber, who are pulled out when needed. They are primarily a piece of propaganda aimed at a home audience.
– Why do you think they brought him back now?
– Obviously there is a need they have now, to promote positive publicity from the West. The picture is that he is a fairly important Norwegian politician who supports Putin. They didn’t find a serious Norwegian politician who thought so – that’s why they made someone like him.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has previously been highly critical of Weber and the activities of his pro-Russian organization – including the delegation’s trip to Crimea and the establishment of a Moscow-based company to lure Norwegian tourists to the Russian-annexed Ukrainian peninsula.
– I guess he made this last trip for business purposes, and there is another hope that this will pay off in the long run. In this case, Norwegian authorities will have to assess whether there has been a violation of the sanctions law, Dale said, adding:
– I guess they followed that.
– Simple propaganda
The Helsinki Advisory Committee believes that the former politician, also through Dagbladet’s previous coverage, is made more important than he really is.
– I think the Russian authorities were happy when Weber was mentioned in the western media. In that case, it is a dilemma to drag it forward. But what is most important is that Russian newspaper readers understand that he is not the leading man in Norway as he pretends to be. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the full picture, because of Russian media censorship, he said.
In the Russian media, the former politician recently commented on the pressure he is allegedly under in Norway, because of his views.
Dale takes this as cynical: The pressure on Weber can hardly be compared to the pressure on opposition politicians and independent journalists in Russia.
Bridge building between Russia and Ukraine can certainly be useful, advisers stressed.
– But Weber was not a bridge builder, he was a simple Russian propagandist.
Weber did not wish to comment on this.
The party secretary in Rødt, Benedikte Pryneid Hansen, had previously explained to Dagbladet that the party was distancing itself from Weber’s activities. He also stated that Rødt was not aware of all that Weber had done in Russia.
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