Russia supplies far-right European politicians using former Ukrainian MP’s media – The Washington Post

The Kremlin
The Kremlin

Pro-Russian Voice of Europe media, launched in Czechia in May 2023, allegedly funded Russian propaganda by funneling up to 1 million euros monthly through far-right politicians across five European nations to bolster the standing of pro-Russian candidates in European Parliament elections, The Washington Post reported on June 3.

Read also: SBU and Czech counterintel expose pro-Russian influence network on MEPs linked to former Ukrainian oligarch

After the EU and the Czechia began banning Voice of Europe, investigations into its activities expanded to Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and France, European security and intelligence officials said. As it turned out, Voice of Europe was much more than just a pro-Russian website.

“The organization was used to funnel hundreds of thousands of euros (up to 1 million per month) to dozens of far-right politicians in more than five countries to inject Kremlin propaganda into Western media that would sow division in Europe and strengthen position of pro-Russian candidates in this week's European Parliament elections,” newspaper writes, citing European intelligence officials.

Read also: Gagauzia governor accused of using Russian funds for political gain in Moldova

Officials described the Russian operation as one of the most ambitious the Kremlin has carried out in Europe in its efforts to undermine support for Ukraine and increase divisions in transatlantic alliance.

Internal Kremlin documents obtained by a European intelligence service and reviewed by WP show that the Voice of Europe was part of an influence campaign created by the Kremlin in close coordination with Viktor Medvedchuk.

The Voice of Europe became a tool for the Kremlin to regain lost ground after expulsion of Russian intelligence officers from Europe, a senior European official said.

An investigation into Voice of Europe launched in Czechia led to raids on home and offices of an aide to far-right Dutch MEP Peter Bystron, a leading member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and a candidate for the European Parliament. Bystron actively opposes sending Western weapons to Ukraine and supports lifting of sanctions against Russia. WP's sources confirmed that Briston knew about the plans for spy operations. At the same time, politician called these accusations a conspiracy to damage AfD's position.

Read also: 16 MEPs collaborated with Medvedchuk's influence project — report

In addition, Germany opened an investigation into Maximilian Krach on charges of accepting payments from Russia and China for his work as an AfD member of European Parliament.

Currently, according to polls, far-right parties may win 25 percent of seats in European Parliament. This will mean an increase in Russian influence, which will jeopardize assistance to Ukraine and create “fertile ground for espionage,” newspaper says.

The Kremlin documents show that Voice of Europe was originally linked to a Russian propaganda operation launched in January 2023. It was designed, among other things, to bolster support for Medvedchuk in Ukraine and position him among European opinion leaders as a “viable replacement” for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Moscow wanted to present Medvedchuk as the head of Ukraine's government in exile, documents show.

Russian propaganda in EU

Joint investigation by German newspaper Spiegel and Czech newspaper Denik N on March 29 reported that German Bundestag member Petr Bystron received funds from a “Russian influence network.”

The Voice of Europe website regularly published calls by European politicians to stop helping Ukraine, and some of the authors of these calls, according to Czech newspaper Denik N, were paid for it.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Kroo on March 28 said that members of the European Parliament received money from Russian for spreading Russian propaganda. According to him, there was “close cooperation” between Belgian and Czech special services to destroy Russian propaganda network.

Read also: Germany investigates AfD politician suspected of laundering Russian money

Vice President of the European Commission Věra Jourová on May 5 said that the Voice of Europe media platform, controlled by former Ukrainian MP Viktor Medvedchuk of banned OPFL party, may be included in 14th package of EU sanctions against Russia.

European Union ambassadors on May 15 agreed to a complete ban on the broadcasting of Russian media, including the Voice of Europe media platform.

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