German building materials firm Knauf to leave Russia after reportedly operating in occupied Mariupol

The German building materials firm Knauf announced on Monday that it would leave Russia following an investigation by German television that suggested the company was providing materials for Russian construction projects in occupied Mariupol.

State news agency TASS quoted a press release in which the company announced it would be transferring its business to local management and leaving Russia “in light of current events” after operating in the country for over 30 years.

Earlier in April, German public broadcaster ARD published an investigation in which it reported that the insignia of two German companies, Knauf and WKB Systems, could be seen on sacks of cement and plastic-wrapped concrete blocks at construction sites in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine. The investigation also said that a construction firm working on a contract with Russia’s Defence Ministry had publicly advertised using Knauf materials in a residential building project in the city.

New apartments in front of a destroyed building in Russian-occupied Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

New apartments in front of a destroyed building in Russian-occupied Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

Following Knauf’s announcement that it would be leaving Russia, the Prosecutor’s Office in the German city of Würzburg said it had opened a preliminary investigation into the company to establish whether it had violated sanctions against Russia.

Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Tobias Kostuch told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that there was currently “no initial suspicion” of Knauf having committed a crime, but that an investigation had been opened to “determine whether such an initial suspicion exists”.

Knauf was “cementing Russian power in the occupied territories” by providing its materials for projects in Russian-occupied Ukraine, German Bundestag member Roderich Kiesewetter told ARD. The company had initially responded to ARD’s investigation by saying that it was complying with all EU sanctions against Russia and was working “exclusively for the Russian market”.

Knauf had previously been designated an “international sponsor of war” by Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention in November in light of its continued operations in Russia.

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