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Police search European Parliament offices in Russia probe

May 29, 2024

Belgium is investigating "pro-Russian interference networks" ahead of next month's European Parliament elections.

Belgian police stand near their van in front of the European Parliament building on May 29, 2024.
Searches were being conducted at a staffer's home in Schaerbeek, northeast Brussels, and his offices in both Brussels and StrasbourgImage: LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/Belga/AFP

Belgian investigators raided the home and offices of a European Parliament staffer believed to be involved in spreading Russian propaganda ahead of elections where every seat in the chamber will be up for grabs next month.

The searches on Wednesday "concern evidence of Russian interference, indicating that members of the European Parliament were approached and paid to promote Russian propaganda via the news site Voice of Europe," Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said.

"Evidence suggests that the European Parliament staffer in question played an important role in this case," it added.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo last month announced a probe into suspected Russian interference in the upcoming European Union elections.

He said investigators found that Russian groups were meddling in the elections to promote pro-Russia candidates, "to reinforce a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution." 

Aide reportedly worked for far-right lawmakers 

Several Dutch news outlets and the French news agency AFP, citing an unnamed official, identified the suspect as a staffer for EU lawmaker Marcel de Graaff of the far-right Dutch party Forum for Democracy.

De Graaff wrote on social media authorities did not contact him.

"For me, all this comes as a complete surprise," he said. "By the way, I have no involvement in any so-called Russian disinformation operation whatsoever. I have my own political beliefs and I proclaim them. That is my job as an MEP."

The suspect previously worked for Maximilian Krah, of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Krah said, "the ex-employee in question has long been working for another MP."

Krah is under investigation for suspicious ties to both Russia and China. Additionally, one of Krah's parliamentary aides was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

The problem with the Voice of Europe

Voice of Europe, the publication at the center of the allegations, is reportedly funded by pro-Kremlin tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk. He found refuge in Russia after leaving Ukraine, where he faces treason charges. 

Earlier this month the EU suspended the broadcasting activities of Voice of Europe, Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti and Russian news outlets Izvestija and Rossiyskaya Gazeta from the 27-nation bloc. 

The EU said they were all under the control of the Kremlin and pushing "propaganda as well as information manipulation." 

Since the war started in February 2022, the EU had already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik, among several other outlets.

The next European Parliament elections take place between June 6 and June 9, with June 9 the polling day in most member states.

lo/rmt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)