Published On: Fri, Mar 29th, 2024
World | 3,355 views

Putin’s hard right cronies in Europe laid bare as Czechs expose ‘propaganda’ network | World | News


The Czech Republic has smashed a Russia-backed propaganda network which paid hard-right politicians in Europe to spread stories aimed at undermining support for Ukraine, the country’s prime minister has said.

Petr Fiala said Voice of Europe, Victor Medvedchuk and Artem Marchevsky have been placed on a sanctions list which would mean the website can no longer operate from the Czech Republic.

An Ukranian politician and oligarch, Mr Medvedchuk was a leading pro-Russia figure in Ukraine and counts the Russian president as a friend. The Czech government claims Medvedchuk “covertly financed” the website.

Czech authorities alleged Mr Marchevsky managed the day-to-day business of the website, which has more than 180,000 followers on X.

Mr Fiala commented on X: “We uncovered a pro-Russian network that was developing an operation to spread Russian influence and undermine security across Europe.

“We have therefore added two individuals and one legal entity to the sanctions list, and the domestic authorities have subsequently secured their assets.”

He said the Czech Republic’s efforts have led other countries in Europe to investigate the activities of pro-Russian espionage networks and are “gradually coming to other serious findings”.

The Czech leader told a press conference the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) discovered the pro-Russian network was seeking to conduct operations and activities in the EU aimed against the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. He added the group’s activity also reaches into the European parliament.

BIS said in a statement: “Money from Moscow has been used to pay some political actors who spread Russian propaganda.”

European politicians believed to have taken money weren’t named by the authorities, but The Times reports that Czech newspaper Deník, citing intelligence sources, said they came from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland.

Deník named the hard-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), as being involved, with Der Spiegel claiming several thousand euros have been given to the party.

Maximilian Krah, an AfD candidate in the EU election, denied taking money from the website. The Times reports he gave the outlet an interview in which he claimed the US was behind the sabotage of Nord Stream gas pipelines in 2022.

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said on Thursday (March 28) MEPs have been paid to spread Russian propaganda.

Mr De Croo said Belgian intelligence services joined Czech counterparts to smash the Russian network.

He told the Belgian parliament: “It came for example to light that Russia has approached MEPs, but also paid [them], to promote Russian propaganda here.”

European Parliament deputy spokesperson Delphine Colard told Politico the Parliament is looking into the findings about Voice of Europe.

Hard-right parties in Europe have maintained ties with Moscow for years. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party received a six million euro loan from a bank in Russia a decade ago, according to The Times.

The Voice for Europe website was offline at the time of writing. It describes itself as an uncensored network of news from Europe and the world.



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