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Germany: AfD's Krah faces probe on Russia, China 'payments'

April 24, 2024

Prosecutors are looking at whether German far-right MEP Maximilian Krah received payments from Russian and Chinese sources. This comes just a day after Krah's aide was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

AfD politician Maximilian Krah
The AfD has said Krah will remain the candidate for upcoming European Union electionsImage: Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

German public prosecutors have launched two preliminary investigations into the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD)'s top European parliamentary candidate after media reports suggested that he had received payments from foreign powers.

A spokesperson for the state prosecutor in the eastern German city of Dresden confirmed to the AFP news agency on Wednesday that initial probes have been opened against lawmaker Maximilian Krah over "alleged payments" from Russian and Chinese sources.

What payments is Krah alleged to have received?

The purpose of the preliminary proceedings, according to the spokesperson, is to establish "whether or not an initial suspicion of illegal parliamentary bribery" exists.

Krah himself told the regional public broadcaster MDR, which first reported the probe, that he was unaware of the steps being taken and denied any wrongdoing.

The public prosecutor said the probe has been launched "as a result of current public reporting," referring to reports by Spiegel magazine and public broadcaster ZDF last week that Krah had been questioned by the FBI in December 2023 over possible payments from sources close to the Kremlin.

During the interrogation, the US investigators had reportedly confronted Krah with chat messages in which the sanctioned pro-Russian former Ukrainian politician and activist Oleg Voloshyn assured him that the problem with "compensation" for Krah's "technical expenses" had been solved and that, from May, "it would be as it was before February."

The words used suggested that such payment arrangements had been long established, suggestions thqat Krah rejected.

According to the public prosecutor, the second initial probe is investigating "alleged Chinese payments for his role as parliamentarian."

Should the prosecutors in Dresden establish a suspicion of wrongdoing, the preliminary investigations could give way to a formal one. For that to happen, however, Krah's parliamentary immunity would have to be lifted.

German far-right party worker arrested on spying charges

Maximilian Krah's pro-Russia connections

Krah's name has cropped up regularly in recent weeks in connection with the pro-Russia online portal Voice of Europe, which was sanctioned by the Czech government at the end of March after Prague said it was a Kremlin-led propaganda tool.

The main figure behind the portal is said to be Viktor Medvedchuk, another pro-Russia former Ukrainian lawmaker and personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin's, as well as Voloshyn.

Medvedchuk, who attempted to flee Ukraine in the days following Russia's full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022, was arrested by the Ukrainian security service in April and exchanged along with 55 other Russian prisoners of war for 215 Ukrainian soldiers captured following the fall of Mariupol.

Krah has had contact with Medvedchuk and Voloshyn for years, according to the reports.

The fresh investigations in Dresden come just one day after one of Krah's aides was charged by the German government with committing espionage for Chinese intelligence agencies.

Krah said he would immediately sack the aide and insisted that he would still lead the AfD ticket in June's European elections.

The prosecutors in Dresden stated that their probe "is not connected" to the Chinese spying case.

German court to rule on 'suspected extremism' status for AfD

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mf/wmr (AFP, dpa)