The former head of Russian Railways and a reputed member of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle on Friday launched a think tank in Berlin focused on "finding solutions for deescalating tensions across the world."

Vladimir Yakunin, who was placed on the US State Department's list of Russian officials sanctioned in the wake of the annexation of Crimea, inaugurated the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) on Friday.

Yakunin said Friday that the institute would be financially and ideologically independent of the Russian government, adding that international dialogue and cooperation was even more important now that the "sound of war drums" was becoming audible in Europe.

The institute's board of directors includes Alfred Gusenbauer, who served as the chancellor of Austria in 2007-2008 and Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic between 2003 and 2013.

Relations between Germany and Russia have soured since the 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been once of the main backers of sanctions against Russian officials and businesses.

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