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German AfD politician rejects Russian payment claims

April 4, 2024

Petr Bystron said he was a target of a "defamation campaign" following reports that he took money from a Russian disinformation site. Czech officials reportedly have audio recordings incriminating Bystron.

AfD lawmaker Petr Bystron speaks at the German Bundestag on October 10, 2023
Petr Bystron has urged peace talks to end the Ukraine war and has firmly rejected the idea of sending NATO troops to the countryImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) politician Petr Bystron has pushed back on allegations that he took money from an online Russian disinformation network, according to a letter seen Thursday by German news outlets Tagesschau, Welt and others.

Bystron has been accused of taking payments from the now-defunct Russian web portal "Voice of Europe" (VoE), which was based in Prague.    

"At no time have I received any payment or cryptocurrencies from an employees of VoE (or any Russian)," Bystron said in the letter to AfD leadership. He complained of a "defamation campaign" regarding the matter against politicians from six European political parties. 

Could Bystron's AfD career be in jeopardy? 

The letter comes after AfD co-chairs Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla had urged Bystron in writing a day prior to explain himself on the issue "in order to dispel all allegations beyond doubt and so that our party's... committee is able to react accordingly."

Weidel and Chrupalla are expected to meet Brystron in person next week to discuss the matter. 

Bystron, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, has represented a constituency in northern Munich since 2017 in the German parliament. In addition, he is also ranked number two on the AfD's list of candidates for European parliamentary elections slated for June, behind Maximilian Krah.

The AfD is among the far-right and right-wing parties hoping to boost their numbers in the EU parliamentary elections amid a rise in populist and anti-migration sentiment on the continent. 

Controversial AfD politician: 'We want diplomacy to work'

Bystron urges Czech officials to release audio recordings 

Czech newspaper Denik N, along with German news outlet Der Spiegel, have reported on audio recordings which they claim incriminate Brystron. The recordings are allegedly in possession of Czech authorities.

The Czech Security Information Service (BIS) said it does not intend to release any audio recordings pertaining to the matter for now.

"The general rule is that this would be intelligence material that we do not publish," a Czech government spokesperson in Prague told German news outlet DPA on  Thursday. 

Bystron on Wednesday called on the Czech Republic to present him with the alleged recordings, according to comments he made to the German Funke Media Group newspapers.  

A screenshot of the "Voice of Europe" website
The 'Voice of Europe' was available in multiple languages Image: Robin Utrecht/picture alliance

The Czech Republic forcibly closed down the "Voice of Europe" site last week and alleged that politicians from six EU member states had received payments from the outlet — Germany, France, Poland, Hungary, Belgium and the Netherlands. 

The Czech government said "Voice of Europe" paid European politicians to spread pro-Kremlin talking points and that the site aimed to dissuade the EU from providing more aid to Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing invasion.

The Czech Republic believes pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk is behind the site, along with his associate Artem Marchevsky, with Prague imposing sanctions on both individuals.    

wd/dj (Reuters, dpa)

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