Man, the Royal Holy Trinity just can’t win as of late, can they. Prince Harry is now facing some backlash following his ski trip to Kazakhstan because of the human rights issue of vacationing in a country with a poor human rights record, and in association with an oligarch who is close friends with Kazakhstan’s dictator president who has been accused of all sorts of human rights violations.
To recap, Harry and Cressida took a trip to Kazakhstan from March 13-16. They took a private jet to get there. They stayed at a resort that is partially owned by oligarch Serzham Zhumashov, who is close friends with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Harry and Cressida, and their friends, were given free use of a government helicopter to take them to and from the slopes every day.
Prince Andrew may be the link here, although “sources” claim he wasn’t involved with this trip. Andrew has gone on private goose hunting trips with Nazarbayev, and in 2007 Nazarbayev’s son-in-law bought Andrew’s old home for £15million—3 mil above the asking price. I would assume Andrew met Nazarbayev during his stint as the trade ambassador.
“Sources close to Harry” are claiming that the trip was organized by someone else in their party and that he and Cressida tagged along. Now here’s the publicist-approved “friend” quote denying culpability and claiming it was all for privacy: “The Prince did not meet with any government officials while he was there and the trip was not at the invitation of any. It was very much a private holiday. Part of the reasoning behind it was that he and his girlfriend were the subject of huge paparazzi attention last year [skiing in Switzerland] and wanted to go somewhere where, ostensibly, they would not be spotted.”
Kensington Palace says this was a private trip so is refusing to say who paid. So did Harry pay, was the chalet lent for free by the shady businessman, did someone else in their party pay for everyone? Questions, questions.
I’m not sure how big this backlash is, but it is being brought up. It certainly isn’t as big as the backlash against William and Kate for their Maldives trip (whether it should be or not is a different story–hint, it should be bigger given the association with a human rights-violating dictator). From a PR stand point, it is a really dumb move to be in any way associated with dictators, just ask Hilary Swank, Jennifer Lopez and Kanye West. I realize Harry and Cress wanted something out of the way so they could have privacy, but Kazakhstan? Kazakhstan at a resort that could link them to a shady oligarch and, through him, a dictator? Stupid.
It amazes me how horrible the Royal Holy Trinity’s PR team has been lately. There has been so many poorly-timed vacations and so much backlash against them in the last few months, it’s unusual. Why hasn’t anyone on their team stepped up and said something to them? Clearly the team is aware of the backlash or else they wouldn’t be talking about how they want William to get a full time job at the Foreign Office to stem the criticism that he doesn’t work. Harry’s trip was stupid. Any vacation at this time would have been dumb given the public’s royal vacation fatigue and Will and Kate’s recent backlash, but if Harry and Cress were going to take a vacation, going to a country with a president who is on the Human Right Watch list is the stupidest place they could go. But it is interesting how the RHT’s office has fallen down on the job. If anything, this trip is evidence that the RHT’s PR team is failing and the cracks are showing in their façade. I wonder how many more incidents like these we will have.