Flogged with birch twigs, cold baths in the sauna, games of ice hockey…Mandelson’s Siberian day trip with millionaire Nat Rothschild

A sightseeing break in Siberia in which Peter Mandelson and a Russian oligarch were flogged with birch twigs in a spa was ‘recreational’ and not part of a £500million business deal, it was claimed yesterday.

Millionaire financier Nat Rothschild said he enjoyed traditional saunas and played ice hockey and five-a-side football with Lord Mandelson and Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska during the 24-hour visit to Siberia.

But he denied claims the 2005 trip was engineered to impress Mr Deripaska or to allow him to seek reassurances about his business from Lord Mandelson, then a newly appointed EU trade commissioner.

Mr Rothschild, 40, a financial adviser to Mr Deripaska, has launched a libel action against the Daily Mail over a 2010 article which he claimed painted him as a ‘puppet-master’ who had exploited his personal friendship with the former Labour spin doctor to impress the oligarch.

The hedge fund manager denied the Siberia trip was ‘inappropriate’, despite it including a visit to Mr Deripaska’s aluminium factory ahead of a European Commission decision on aluminium imports to Europe.

He told the High Court: ‘The whole point of the Siberia trip was that we went there, we spent a nano-second at this smelter, we then went to the most delightful banya [a traditional Russian steam bath] where we were beaten by a 25-year-old banya-keeper man who has spent his life perfecting the art of the banya.

‘Then we jumped into ice-cold water. It’s the best way in the world to cure jetlag and everything else. It was incredibly enjoyable.’

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