John Frederic Paksas was the CEO of Telenor between 2002 and 2015. During this time, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a dozen occasions.
Eight years after their last meeting, Putin invaded Ukraine and dramatically changed the security situation in Europe.
– Surprised the word moderate in this context. It’s really unbelievable that what’s happening now, almost to an open camera, is going on. It is absolutely horrible for this to happen in 2022, says Baksasa for TV 2.
Telenor played a pivotal role in the development of mobile communications in Russia, and was already in Murmansk in 1992. Exactly ten years later, Paksas met the Russian president for the first time, in connection with which Telenor’s billionth investment in the Russian telecommunications company Vimpelcom.
After that, President Putin was on his first visit to this country. The agreement was signed in Parkveen, with Prime Minister Bondevik and Putin as co-residents. With this investment, Telenor was one of the largest foreign investors that year.
– embraced by Europe
The investment attracted the attention of the Norwegian company, and when Putin held a cooperation forum for foreign investors every year, Telenor had a place. This means that Baksas met with the Russian President once a year.
During these years, he, like many others, had a favorable impression of Putin. The former CEO explains that they can’t say they saw an evolution in that direction.
On the contrary, we saw a president concerned with the modernization of his country, with liberal ideas, and embraced by Europe. It was something that signaled a change compared to what we were used to before.
This is how Putin tightened the iron fist on Russia: – He sees himself as a tsar
– But then there was a change at some point?
– Yes, correct. I don’t know when and where, but the West and NATO should come close to it, now that Poland and the Baltic states have become members of both the European Union and NATO. His view of this as a threat has long been known.
Not only is this something he talked about with retribution, but politics also discovered it along the way, he said.
– that he must go further than he is now, not least with such methods, no one could dream of.
Knowing that it was used
The last time Paksas met Putin was at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg in 2014, shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Then the big question was whether or not Western companies should get involved.
– I went away and was invited to sit with him on some kind of podium while he was giving his speech. And thank us for being there, obviously we’ll take advantage then too.
– But on the other hand, we invested a lot over many years, earned a lot, earned a lot of money and contributed to creating value, so it continued, as he continues with stories.
At the time, Telenor still had a large holding in Vimpelcom, which also included Ukraine’s largest mobile operator, Kyivstar.
– Therefore, in order to acknowledge existence in relation to what we have been involved in, we think it is important. We also gradually learned that we had to find another solution for our property in Vimpelcom, and that’s how it turned out. Now it is sold.