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Russia trying to meddle in EU elections

April 14, 2019

Russia is reportedly trying to give euroskeptic parties a boost ahead of the EU parliamentary vote in May. The EU's eastern neighbor has a track record of interfering in foreign elections.

Vladimir Putin in front of a Russian and EU flag in Brussels
Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. Gobet

European Union security services are monitoring Russian attempts to interfere in the EU's parliamentary elections in May, German news agency DPA reported Saturday, citing a security progress report.

According to the report, Russia's efforts are aimed at boosting support for parties that are either euroskeptic or friendly to Russia. Its messaging also questioned the significance of the European Parliament to try to lower voter turnout.

The efforts were primarily targeting young voters on social media and through state-backed media outlets, the report found.

The elections take place May 23-26, with citizens from the bloc's member states casting their ballots for national representatives to serve in the pan-European legislative body. Analysts have warned of a potential increase in the number of seats held by right-wing populist parties.

Russia dismisses allegations

In a statement to DPA, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was not interfering in the EU parliamentary election and was not planning to do so in other elections, either.

US intelligence agencies found that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to sway the vote in Donald Trump's favor.

In the run-up to 2017 French presidential elections, the right-wing populist and pro-Russian candidate Marine Le Pen received Russian financial support.

Images from social media show 2016 presidential campaign scenes
Russia was found to have interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign in Trump's favorImage: picture alliance/AP Photo

Expulsion effects

High-ranking security officials told DPA that Russia's actions ahead of this year's EU elections have been markedly less visible than its previous meddling attempts.

The officials said the 2018 expulsion of more than 150 workers from Russian embassies in the EU and US could have weakened Moscow's spy network, reducing its ability to carry out an interference campaign.

However, the security services do not know exactly who is behind the attempted meddling. They said various Russian groups are carrying out the attempts with relatively little coordination.

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DW author Cristina Burack.
Cristina Burack Editor and reporter focusing on culture, politics and history