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 Toni Michel

Fields of Expertise: European Union, Germany, France, United Kingdom, post-Soviet space


Toni Michel is the founder of LOCKBREAKERS. A German national, he has lived, studied and worked in France, the UK, Belgium, Lithuania, Russia and Georgia. A graduate of Passau University with a focus on populist movements in the UK and the German political system, Toni gained extensive experience in the inner-working of both the German national parliament as well as the European Union, where he dealt with issues ranging from the EU’s international trade agreements to internal market regulations as a parliamentary assistant.

Toni has since widened his expertise through a Master’s Degree in “Politics and Economics in Eurasia” at MGIMO University in Moscow with a particular focus on domestic affairs and political development in Russia, Kazakhstan and Georgia. He graduated summa cum laude.

Before entering the world of politics and economics, Toni actually planned on becoming a professional trumpet player. Even though he has since moved on, he still joins the local brass band in his home village in Bavaria, whenever he can.

Toni speaks German, English, French, Russian and plans to one day refresh his rusty Lithuanian language skills.


Yuan Jiang

Fields of Expertise: China, Chinese mass media, Raw materials in the post-Soviet space, Chinese global agenda, Sino-Russian relations, Chinese Business


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Yuan Jiang is the co-founder of LOCKBREAKERS. A Chinese national, he set out to an astonishing career on and off-campus during his studies of law and business administration at Shanghai University and of “Politics and Economics in Eurasia” at MGIMO University in Moscow.

During his studies in Russia, he quickly established himself on campus as the go-to man for China – founding and leading the Chinese Students’ Association and the local branch of the China Global Connection. An established authority in Russia, Yuan serves as special correspondent for a number of Chinese mass media outlets there, namely, Asia Weekly, The Global Times and The Paper. As a journalist, he was invited to Russian and Chinese TV and radio many times.

Yuan is also active in the realm of business, facilitating raw material exports from Russia to Greater China, while working as a partner of  NODE Technology Limited Company and for ZTE Corporation.

In China, Yuan worked for a number of NGOs and academic institutions, helping youth offenders get back on their feet, working on outreach for a traditional Chinese philosophy group and on legal affairs for the Shanghai Chinese Creative Writing Centre. He founded a study exchange agency to help young Chinese students to get started at foreign Universities. Academically, Yuan is an expert in Chinese politics and Sino-Russian relations, in particular within the context of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and worked intensively on these topics at the Russia in International Affairs Council (RIAC).

Yuan is, as he himself acknowledges, quite an unusual Chinese. His entrepreneurial and incredible social energy have built him an unrivalled network and can open literal doors as soon as he puts his mind on a given goal. He likes to play many roles and really enjoys them.

Yuan speaks Chinese, English, Russian and Japanese.


Vladimir Legenko

Fields of Expertise: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, post-Soviet space, International Law


Vladimir Legenko is LOCKBREAKERS’ expert on Eurasia, the post-Soviet space and Russia in particular. Vladimir, a Ukrainian national, has an extensive background in national and international law, with a degree from MGIMO University in the field as well as innovative work for the Skolkovo Foundation in Moscow. Furthermore, Vladimir has a wide range of experiences from work in different law firms as well as from his tenure at the Center for Adaptation of the Civil Service to the Standards of the European Union in Kiev.

In times of difficult relations between the two countries, Vladimir is heading the Ukrainian Student Association at MGIMO University in Moscow while he worked towards constructive solutions to the crisis as a national expert during a student shadow format of the Normandy Negotiations. In national politics, Vladimir worked in the field of educational policy for a deputy to the national Parliament as well as for a pre-crisis advisory body to the administration of his native Lugansk.

Vladimir is not only using his sharp mind to tackle real-world problems but has recently gotten into science-fiction writing. Much to the frustration of his colleagues here at BrainTrust, he has kept the details of his first book largely a secret – so far we just know that his tech-savvy interest in virtual reality will play a role.

Vladimir speaks Russian, Ukrainian, English and French.