Russian propaganda network that 'paid MEPs' busted

2 weeks ago 25

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said members of the European Parliament had been paid by the network

A Russian-backed "propaganda" network has been broken up for spreading anti-Ukraine stories and paying unnamed European politicians, according to authorities in several countries.

Investigators claimed it used the popular Voice of Europe website as a vehicle to pay politicians.

The Czech Republic and Poland said the network aimed to influence European elections.

Voice of Europe did not respond to the BBC's request for comment.

Czech media, citing the countries intelligence agency BIS, reported that politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary were paid by Voice of Europe in order to influence upcoming elections for the European Parliament.

The German newspaper, Der Spiegel, said the money was either handed over in cash in covert meetings in Prague or through cryptocurrency exchanges.

Pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk is alleged by the Czech Republic to be behind the network.

Mr Medvedchuk was arrested in Ukraine soon after the Russian invasion, but later transferred to Russia with about 50 prisoners of war in exchange for 215 Ukrainians.

Czech authorities also named Artyom Marchevsky, alleging he managed the day-to-day business of the website. Both men were sanctioned by Czech authorities.

Poland's intelligence agency said it had conducted searches in the Warsaw and Tychy regions and seized €48,500 (£41,500) and $36,000 (£28,500).

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

It added that the sums amounted to "millions" of Czech crowns (tens of thousands of pounds).

The alleged propaganda network "aimed to carry out activities against the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," BIS said.

BIS did not name the politicians allegedly involved. However, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo alleged they included members of the European Parliament.

"It came for example to light that Russia has approached MEPs, but also paid [them], to promote Russian propaganda here," Mr De Croo told Belgian MPs.

The Voice of Europe website was offline on Thursday. An archived version of its homepage showed several articles highlighting internal divisions within European countries and expressing scepticism about support for Ukraine.

These included: "Protest in Prague: people's voice against corruption, military support for Ukraine, and government", and "Ukraine's army faces a mounting troop shortage amid ongoing challenges".

Voice of Europe had more than 180,000 followers on Twitter/X. The publication did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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