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- What are you suffering for, Gennady Nikolayevich?
- I wouldn’t say I’m actually suffering too much although I do feel certain discomfort. I’ve gotten a feeling I’m not free. I’ve always considered Russia to be my home but I lived most of the time abroad in the past twenty-five years, moving from one country to another. Now I’ve virtually become travel-banned. My family has left for France and I can’t join them… Now I’m cut off from all of that. From my family, from my much-loved dog.
- What breed is it?
- Will you confirm supposition?
- It’s true. Rommie is Connie’s daughter from the first litter. We tried to keep the information to ourselves, though. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t a dog fancier previously but I think Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) wanted to hand over a puppy to a reliable master and I naturally agreed. I chose Rommie myself. I liked her right away. She is black with whitish spots on the chest. She lived in the presidential residence on Rublyovskoye Shosse until she turned seven months old while all the injections were given to her and the documents were obtained. Then I took her to Switzerland. She’s turned into a family member over ten years.
I’m accustomed to wandering around the world and spending 500 hours a year aboard a plane. Being on the move all the time is normal for any large businessman. But I always knew I could reunite with my family at any time. Now it’s different, and that’s what is really saddening. My son turned nineteen years old July 11. He had to come to Russia from Switzerland where is studying at a university to mark his birthday.
- Is he a citizen of Finland, like you?
- My son was born in Helsinki and there are no obstacles for him or other members of our family to keep up Russian citizenship, too. I’ve never made a secret of my dual citizenship. I’ did everything legally, with a due observance of law. You remember the 1990’s. I needed a second passport then to be able to move around the world freely and to prevent a waste of time while awaiting foreign entry visas. Our business was developing rapidly then and mobility meant really much for me…
- Why don’t you go to Europe now, by the way? It was the Americans that blacklisted you, not Europeans…
- Formally there are no obstacles. I can board a flight for Paris, Geneva or London right away. I have quite a few friends and partners in Europe and they won’t let me down if something happens. Alas, there are reasons for misgivings about possible provocations on the part of U.S. secret services. That’s why my traveling is restricted now. Believe me, these are not just my fantasies. There’s reliable data the details of which I can’t reveal to you, quite understandably. Still we’re working on the issue.
- I think it’d be more correct to ask you who are you suffering for rather than what for. The U.S., which is willing to jab Vladimir Putin, doesn’t conceal it’s targeting his closest circle.
Businessman's private collection of art. © ITAR-TASS/Vyacheslav Prokofyev
- Well, I can say I’m suffering for my homeland and for its president, whose domestic and foreign policies I support. Including Crimea. I came back before the sanctions and the March referendum in Russia. I felt it was about time. As you can see, I live in a house designed in classic Soviet style. Even the pictures I put up here are in the Socialist realism style. Many paintings were painted by the Tkachev brothers. I’ll show their canvasses as we walk around the rooms. Those brothers were born in the Bryansk region, by the way, almost on the border with Ukraine.
- I noticed you use a walkie-talkie to call an assistant or a housekeeper.
- That’s a big building, two stories. Plus four hectares of land around it. It’s no use shouting here.
- And the mobile phone?
- Edward Snowden has taught us to handle this thing more cautiously. We’re being watched.
- By the Big Brother?
- By big and little brothers… I have to take this into account. Naturally, I speak over the phone, too, but I remember that alien ears are listening to me in addition to my interlocutor. So I understand clearly what to say and whom to say it to.
- Nonetheless, do you have an e-mail and do you appear on social networks?
- I’ll tell you frankly I don’t know how to use the computer and I’m not going to learn how to do it. Lena, my wife, completed computer courses, learned how to use the Internet and now communicates with staff by e-mail. She receives up to 150 emails a day and she has to answer all of them because it’s a rule with cultured people. And imagine how many emails I might be getting. I just don’t have time to correspond with the whole world. And that’s why I decided that the computer wasn’t meant for me. I know how to text and that’s enough. If I need to read something urgently or to get a document, I can use a notebook of someone of my home folks or assistants. There’s no problem with it, you see, because everyone around has all these gadgets. As for the news in the Internet, I don’t read it and hence have a sound sleep at night.
- Following the advice of Professor Preobrazhensky? (Prof. Preobrazhensky, a hero of Mikhail Bulgakov’s short novel ‘A Dog’s Heart’ who recommended his assistant to stop reading Soviet papers before lunch, as they spoiled appetite. – ITAR-TASS).
- Exactly. And I feel really well. Internet is filled with so much stuff that you really get astonished sometimes. And I often learn the things about myself that have nothing in common with reality.
- Recently there was a publication about your Ukrainian roots…
- It so happened that my father’s parents died too early and he lived in an orphanage shelter for some time. It’s too difficult to trace our familial history but I know that my grandparents hailed from the Kharkiv region, which is located in Novorossia.
- Or the Sloboda area…
- Whatever you call it, those lands were incorporated into Soviet Ukraine only in 1922. One of the people reigning there now is practically my neighbor in Geneva.
- And who’s that?
- Kolomoisky (Ihor Kolomoisky, current Governor of Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk region. – ITAR-TASS). Our houses are located close enough. I am not acquainted with Mr. Kolomoisky personally but I’ve heard about him really much. But these stories are not for the media. For the prosecutorial agencies, probably…
- Did you speak with Vladimir Vladimirovich about it?
- No, of course not! Firstly, we don’t see each other as you may think. Secondly, I never meddle with the spheres where I’m not competent. I’m not a politician and I’d don’t speak up on these issues.