Police search European Parliament offices in a Russian influence probe

In Belgium, police searched a European Parliament employee’s home and offices in Schaerbeek on May 29, alleging involvement in spreading Russia’s influence in the EU.

The Belgian authorities are investigating “pro-Russian interference networks” ahead of the European Parliament elections.

In this case, the Belgian Federal Judicial Police searched the home and office of a suspected European Parliament employee. The searches are part of a larger investigation into foreign interference, corruption, and involvement in a criminal organization.

The individual under investigation is believed to be Guillaume Pradoura, a former parliamentary assistant to German MEP Maximilian Krah of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Raids as part of the investigation into Russian influence

The raids, according to prosecutors, were a part of an investigation into Russian influence propagation, in which they allegedly contacted and bribed members of the European Parliament to promote Russian propaganda on the Voice of Europe news website.

In a significant development, Eurojust and the French judicial authorities coordinated to search the office of a parliamentary assistant in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

According to sources close to the case, the suspects have links to far-right parties, as reported by RTBF.

Pradoura and his duties in the European Parliament 

Pradoura currently serves as an assistant to Dutch MEP Marcel de Graaff, a member of the Forum for Democracy, a far-right national conservative party from the Netherlands. Marcel de Graaff was among the MEPs who voiced pro-Russian narratives on the Voice of Europe platform, which is now sanctioned in the EU.

Although his party is currently unaffiliated, it was previously part of the Eurosceptic and far-right groups, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID).

De Graaff was forced out of his group Identity and Democracy in October 2022 over pro-Russian statements in relation to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Dutch news agency ANP confirmed that the employee in question is Pradoura. De Graaff commented on the social media platform X, stating that he had learned from the media about the searches of his assistant’s home and office. 

He emphasized that authorities had contacted neither him nor his assistant.

De Graaff denied involvement in any Russian disinformation campaigns, asserting that he holds his own political beliefs. 

He suggested that the searches were an attempt to target the far-right Alternative for Germany due to concerns about its potential success in the upcoming EU elections. Pradoura was previously an assistant to AfD’s lead candidate, Maximilian Krah.

Concerns for the European elections

This investigation into far-right connections and disinformation underscores the heightened vigilance within the EU against efforts to undermine democratic processes. 

From June 6 to 9, voters in the 27 EU member states will elect 720 lawmakers to the European Parliament. Mainstream political groups have expressed concerns that voters will face a barrage of fake news and disinformation during the campaign. 

The EU has already imposed sanctions on the Czech-registered Voice of Europe and two associated businessmen.

Pro-Kremlin tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk reportedly funds Voice of Europe, the media platform at the center of the scandal. The Ukrainian oligarch found refuge in Russia after leaving Ukraine for a PoW exchange, where he faced high treason charges. 

The Council of the EU highlighted that Voice of Europe and its social media accounts have been spreading disinformation about Ukraine and promoting “pro-Kremlin false narratives.” 

Czech authorities announced in late March that they had uncovered a Russian influence operation through Voice of Europe, alleging financial transactions with MEPs and national parliament members.

According to Czech media citing intelligence, the allegations involve politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Hungary.

The Voice of Europe has responded by rejecting the EU’s actions in an unsigned article on its website.

As the European Parliament elections approach, the scrutiny of political affiliations and activities, especially those linked to foreign influence, intensifies, reflecting broader concerns about the integrity of information and electoral interference.

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