Home News Far-right ties to Russia cause alarm in Germany

Far-right ties to Russia cause alarm in Germany


To enter a secret session of the German parliament, lawmakers must lock their phones and leave them outside. Inside, they were not even allowed to take notes. To many politicians, however, these espionage precautions now feel like a farce.

Because sitting next to them in these confidential meetings were members of the Alternative for Germany, a far-right party known by its German acronym AfD.

In the past few months alone, one of Germany’s leading politicians from the Alternative for Germany defendant Take money from pro-Kremlin strategists.One of the party’s parliamentary aides is exposed Ties with Russian intelligence operatives.Some state legislators fly to Moscow observe Stage management of elections in Russia.

“When these sensitive issues are being discussed, I am convinced that there are MPs sitting there who have close ties to Moscow – and that not only makes me uncomfortable. It worries me,” said Erhard Ger, a Green Party member of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. Erhard Grundl said.

The Alternative for Germany called such comments “baseless”.

While some of the accusations against the AfD may be an attempt by political opponents to score points, security concerns are real. As evidence of the party’s ties to Moscow continues to accumulate, skepticism is rising across Germany’s mainstream political spectrum.

“The Alternative for Germany has been behaving like the long arm of the terrorist state Russia,” said Roderich Kiesewetter, deputy director of the parliamentary intelligence committee and a member of the center-right Christian Democrats. wrote on social media.

Since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Europe has struggled to fend off Moscow’s influence operations aimed at weakening Western unity and resolve.Worry goes beyond tapping and espionage This includes Moscow’s relationships with political parties, particularly those on the far right, which have proven to be useful tools for the Kremlin.

In Germany and elsewhere, the alarm is only growing ahead of June’s European Parliament elections, with many parties expected to post their best ever showings.

The AfD, which opposes arms supplies to Ukraine and calls for an end to sanctions on Russia, seeks not only to become The second strongest German political parties take part in European Parliament elections. It is expected to become a dominant force in elections in three eastern German states this fall. This makes it possible, though still unlikely, for the AfD to take control of state governments.

“This will be a completely new situation for Russia, where the people who are doing the propaganda and delivering the message may actually be in power,” said leftist lawmaker Martina Renner, a member of the parliament’s internal security committee. .

German lawmakers of all stripes, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and the conservative Christian Democrats, have long had close economic ties with Russia that entangle them with its interests. Critics say this is one of the reasons the administration has failed to take more aggressive action against covert Russian operations — fear of exposing how deep ties with Moscow once were.

But after the war in Ukraine, mainstream lawmakers lamented those ties and most have severed them, while many Alternative for Germany lawmakers appear intent on deepening them.

On Friday, Belgian authorities announced they were opening an investigation into payments to European lawmakers. Some of the strongest suspicions are directed at Petr Bystron, an AfD member of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

In 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Bystron led AfD MPs in demanding to know why the German government did not fight for the freedom of Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Putin Ukrainian oligarch they called as “the most important Ukrainian”. Opposition politicians. “

Medvedchuk previously founded a pro-Moscow party in Ukraine and owns several pro-Kremlin television channels there. After the Russian invasion, he was placed under house arrest in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on charges of treason.

He was later released and sent to Russia in a prisoner exchange with Moscow, where he apparently remained active in promoting Russian interests.

Last month, Czech and Belgian authorities accused Mr Medvedchuk of being a Russian “influence operationsMoney and cryptocurrency were funneled through the EuroVoice media platform to politicians in at least six European countries in exchange for Kremlin propaganda.

Byström has appeared several times on the “European Voice” program, in which he described his party as a bulwark against “globalist” parties and reiterated his opposition to Western sanctions against Russia.

Authorities say he and several AfD members are now suspected of receiving payments, but so far they have not brought any charges against anyone. Bystrong’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The New York Times.

Last week, Bystrong, who is a candidate for the European Elections party, called the case a conspiracy against the party. “Every election is preceded by the same thing: slander with the help of the Secret Service,” he told the AfD-linked website Deutsche Courier.

As for doubts about him and the AfD’s support for Medvedchuk – a move that other lawmakers found suspicious – a spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group told The Times, “We firmly reject other MPs’ smear campaign against the work of our opposition” parliamentary group, which is clearly driven by party tactics. “

Konstantin von Notz, a Green Party member and chairman of parliament’s intelligence oversight committee, called the charges against Byström “the tip of the iceberg.”

Two months ago, one investigation Insider and Der Spiegel published communications last year between AfD parliamentary aide Wladimir Sergijenko and Russian intelligence agents via encrypted messaging services.

Encrypted communications between Sergienko and intelligence officers allegedly discussed plans by the Alternative for Germany to file a lawsuit aimed at blocking or blocking Germany’s supply of weapons to Ukraine, including much-needed tanks, by alleging the government failed to seek parliamentary approval. He reportedly told staff the plan needed “media and financial support.”

Last July, the Alternative for Germany filed such a lawsuit. But the party said it had nothing to do with Sergienko, who called any accusations of links to Russian intelligence services “fictitious”.

However, concerns about Moscow’s influence on the party go beyond the actions of a few individuals and indicate deepening ideological ties.

A senior aide to Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Tino Chrupalla published an article article Connect to on an obscure website Alexander DuginA right-wing ideologue whose concept of a “Russian world” inspired Putin and the invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Dugin also popularized terms such as “Eurasianism” that now appear in the rhetoric of many AfD figures.

This month, Schulz said many of the AfD leader’s statements on European and security issues were “very similar” to Putin’s.

In 2018, when Russian officials invited some AfD members to observe the election, Una Titz, an analyst at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation who studies the far right and its ties to Moscow, said The party’s tone toward Russia and Europe began to shift.

Since then, several AfD delegations have visited Russia.There’s even a member of Congress wanted Plans were made to open an office in Moscow, but this was abandoned amid protests from other MPs.

“Of course, it was carefully orchestrated,” Ms. Tietz said of the relationship Moscow has built with the AfD. “This is part of a non-linear Russian-led war against Western democracies.”

Indeed, some officials say privately that the AfD’s ties to Moscow may be just the most visible manifestation of a broader problem of Russia covertly infiltrating German parties and institutions.

Officials acknowledged that most of the aides – hundreds of them in parliament – had not received security clearances and that they were unable to determine their backgrounds.

“For the AfD, it’s easy,” said Ms Reyna of the internal security committee. But she warned that the Russian secret service wanted to find “allies with the big parties, even the ruling party.” “They want them everywhere.”

Oleg Matznev Reporting from Berlin.

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