Another far-right MEP’s office in the European Parliament searched for suspected Russian links

© European Union 2023 - Source : EP-148525I Photographer: Michel CHRISTEN
MEP Marcel De Graaff stated in a post on the social media platform X that the authorities did not contact him or his associate.

Last month, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in response to mounting concerns about Russian influence in European politics, announced an investigation into allegations that EU lawmakers were bribed to promote Russian propaganda to undermine support for Ukraine. The investigation was prompted by a report from the Belgian intelligence service revealing a pro-Kremlin disinformation network. Additionally, German, Polish, and Czech intelligence agencies also announced operations against Russian propaganda networks. It’s interesting to note that far-right politicians were implicated in these cases.

According to prosecutors, on Wednesday, Belgian and French authorities, in collaboration with Eurojust, the European Union’s judicial cooperation unit, searched the offices in Brussels and Strasbourg and the residence of a Parliament employee.

According to the Associated Press, prosecutors said, “The searches are part of a case of interference, passive corruption, and membership of a criminal organization and relate to indications of Russian interference, whereby Members of the European Parliament were approached and paid to promote Russian propaganda via the Voice of Europe news website.” Prosecutors said they believe the employee’s role was significant.

In a significant move, the EU recently banned Voice of Europe and three other Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the EU. The EU stated that the Kremlin-controlled outlets targeted European political parties, especially during elections, as part of their disinformation campaigns. Since the war began in February 2022, the EU has suspended several other outlets, including Russia Today and Sputnik, in an effort to curb Russian influence.

Several news outlets identified the suspect in this case as Guillaume Pradoura, a staff member of MEP Marcel de Graaff. The allegations against Pradoura include accepting bribes to promote Russian propaganda via the Voice of Europe news website. De Graaff is the only MEP of the Dutch far-right party Forum for Democracy (FvD), led by Thierry Baudet. The official was not allowed to speak publicly due to the ongoing probe.

However, MEP De Graaff stated in a post on the social media platform X that the authorities did not contact him or his associate.

“Today, I learned through the media that the home and office of my employee, Mr. Pradoura, have been searched. I spoke to my employee, and he appeared unaware of this. The authorities have not contacted me or him. To me, this all comes as a complete surprise”.

Marcel de Graaff was a member of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group between February 2020 and October 2022. Then, he suddenly accused ID of being anti-Russian and left it.  

“By the way, I have no involvement whatsoever in any so-called Russian disinformation operation. I have my own political beliefs, and I proclaim them. That is my job as a MEP. I would also point out that Minister De Jonge confirmed in the House of Representatives that no Dutch MEPs were involved in the so-called Russiagate”.

The FVD openly supports Vladimir Putin‘s narrative about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and blames NATO for the aggression of 2022. De Graaff, initially a member of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), joint FvD in 2022 due to the PVV’s pro-coronavirus vaccinations positions. He advocates ending all sanctions against Russia and stopping arms supplies and financial support to Ukraine.

The Dutch MEP sees the Prosecutor’s action as politically motivated as the far-right parties will increase their seats in the European Parliament.

“As far as I can tell, this action by the authorities seems to be mainly aimed at the AfD for fear of a good election result,” De Graaf posted.

Pradoura previously worked for Maximilian Krah, the top candidate of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Krah was recently banned from campaigning by his party due to allegations of involvement in espionage for China. Authorities in Brussels searched Krah’s offices at the European Parliament regarding one of his assistants, who was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

Krah was also at the centre of Marine Le Pen‘s decision on May 22 to cut relations with AfD after he made controversial comments to an Italian newspaper. He was quoted as saying that ‘SS were not all criminals’, a statement that drew widespread condemnation. A day after, the ID group also expelled AfD.

The links between several far-right parties in Europe and Russia are causing significant concerns in the EU about their potential involvement in the Kremlin’s disinformation activities, especially before the June European elections. The fact that most of the ID groups’ parties, like Le Pen’s National Rally, Matteo Salvini‘s League, or Herbert Kickl‘s Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), are Putin’s supporters further amplifies these concerns.

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