An investigation by the German TV magazine Monitor from public broadcaster ARD has uncovered the involvement of German companies Knauf and WKB Systems in the reconstruction efforts of the city of Mariupol, devastated by the Russian full-scale invasion back in the spring of 2022.

Through analysis of annual reports, photographs, and videos, reporters discovered the presence of these companies in the war-ravaged Ukrainian city, which is currently under Russian occupation.

The journalists identified Knauf and WKB Systems logos on various construction equipment, house windows, packaging of concrete blocks, and bags of building materials scattered across Mariupol.

According to ARD, one of the official dealers of Knauf, a German construction materials manufacturer, publicly disclosed its involvement in a construction project on behalf of the Russian Defense Ministry in Mariupol. However, the specific dealer remains unspecified.

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Images from this construction site revealed bags prominently displaying Knauf logos.

Notably, Knauf is owned by German businessman Nicholas Knauf, who, as ARD highlights, served as the honorary consul of Russia for over two decades and has had encounters with Vladimir Putin.

Despite the war, Knauf, which boasts over 4,000 employees in Russia, announced it has no intentions of withdrawing from the country.

In response to inquiries, Knauf issued a statement condemning Russia’s “aggressive war against Ukraine” and asserted its compliance with all EU sanctions.

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The company clarified that its production in Russia is solely intended for the Russian market. However, Knauf left unanswered a list of questions submitted by the editorial team.

Additionally, German company WKB Systems, specializing in equipment for cellular concrete and silicate brick factories, was also found to be involved in Mariupol's reconstruction.

Experts consulted by ARD emphasized the ethical dilemma faced by companies, asserting that even if building materials don't fall under EU sanctions, firms should refrain from deriving any benefits from a war that violates international law.

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Mariupol, which suffered extensive destruction in the initial days of the war, saw Russian troops severely bombing the city's residential areas, causing upwards of 75,000 deaths, mass graves and widespread destruction.

A joint investigation by Human Rights Watch, SITU Research, and Truth Hounds in February 2024 revealed that over 90 percent of residential buildings in the city center were destroyed.

Following the city’s annexation, Russian authorities outlined plans for Mariupol’s reconstruction by 2035. In August 2022, the Kremlin’s Ministry of Construction announced intentions to complete the restoration within three years.

In November, a documentary called “Shock Prices for Apartments in Mariupol” was released on YouTube. The film investigates the current real estate market in Mariupol and highlights how Russians are investing in the homes left behind by those who were killed or forced to flee after Moscow’s invasion.

Released on the channel “Mirnye,” the film dives into Mariupol’s real estate market, asking questions about buying property in a city that’s been devastated.

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The documentary addresses questions such as: “Is it worth investing in places wrecked by the war, hoping to make a buck when things get better? What apartments are offered for sale, and what does the price depend on?”

Mariupol's abandoned and ruined houses are called “razrushky,” which can be loosely translated as “ruins.”

The documentary features discussions with three local real estate agents showcasing properties across the city, abandoned hastily by residents amid the chaos of war.

The realtors say these ruined properties are in demand and being touted as “invaluable investments.”

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