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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Police search the European Parliament over suspected Russian interference: Prosecutor's office

The raids took place less than two weeks before Europe-wide polls on June 6-9 to elect a new EU parliament

AP Brussels Published 29.05.24, 07:09 PM
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Representational image X / @Europarl_EN

Belgium's federal prosecutor's office said on Wednesday that police carried out searches at the residence of an employee of the European Parliament and at his office in the Parliament's building in Brussels over suspected Russian interference.

Prosecutors said in statement that the suspect's office in Strasbourg, where the EU Parliament's headquarters are located in France, was also searched in partnership with the EU's judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, and French judicial authorities.

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The raids took place less than two weeks before Europe-wide polls on June 6-9 to elect a new EU parliament.

An investigation was announced last month by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who said his country's intelligence service has confirmed the existence of a network trying to undermine support for Ukraine.

“The searches are part of a case of interference, passive corruption and membership of a criminal organization and relates to indications of Russian interference, whereby Members of the European Parliament were approached and paid to promote Russian propaganda via the Voice of Europe news website,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they believe the employee played “a significant role in this.”

Several Dutch news outlets identified the suspect as a staffer for EU lawmaker Marcel de Graaff of the far-right Dutch party Forum for Democracy. A person with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that the reports were accurate. The official was not allowed to speak publicly because the probe is ongoing.

Calls to de Graaff's office at the European Parliament were not immediately answered.

The EU this month banned Voice of Europe and three other Russian media from broadcasting in the 27-nation bloc. The EU said they were all under control of the Kremlin and were targeting “European political parties, especially during election periods.”

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

De Croo said last month that the probe showed that members of the European Parliament were approached and offered money to promote Russian propaganda.

“According to our intelligence service, the objectives of Moscow are very clear. The objective is to help elect more pro-Russian candidates to the European Parliament and to reinforce a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution,” he said.

EU nations have poured billions of Euros into Ukraine, along with significant amounts of weaponry and ammunition. They've also slapped sanctions on top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, banks, companies and the energy sector since Moscow's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

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