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Belgian, French police raid European Parliament employee’s properties amid Russian propaganda investigation

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 29, 2024 4:02 PM 3 min read
The flags of the European Union, its member states and Ukraine are flying in front of the European Parliament building on May 29, 2024. (Philipp von Ditfurth/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Police in Belgium and France have conducted raids on properties and an office connected to an employee of the European Parliament citing indications of his "significant role" in promoting Russian propaganda, the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office reported on May 29.

The Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported that the employee under investigation works for Dutch MEP Marcel de Graaff, a representative of the far-right party Forum for Democracy (FvD) in the European Parliament.

Czechia announced in March that it had uncovered a propaganda network that had been spreading pro-Kremlin narratives and paying Russian-friendly politicians in the EU through a website called Voice of Europe.

An investigation by the Czech outlet Denik N and Germany's Spiegel alleged that the website paid politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Hungary hundreds of thousands of euros in exchange for promoting their opposition to military aid for Ukraine.

Prague named pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk and Ukrainian-Israeli media manager Artem Marchevskyi as the people behind the operation.

The EU announced sanctions against the men, as well as the Voice of Europe site, on May 27, after suspending Voice of Europe and three other outlets recognized as Russian propaganda channels on May 17.

How Czechia busted Russian propaganda network targeting European elections
The Czech government announced on March 27 that it had uncovered a Moscow-financed propaganda network that sought to influence European politics and turn public opinion against aiding Ukraine. Prague named Viktor Medvedchuk, a Kremlin-linked former Ukrainian oligarch, and Artem Marchevskyi, a media…

While the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office did not name the site specifically, the press release said the raids are part of a dossier on "interference, passive corruption, and membership of a criminal organization."

The case relates to "indications of Russian interference, in which members of the European Parliament were allegedly approached and paid for the promotion of Russian propaganda."

De Graaf responded on X that he found out about the raids through the media and that his employee, who he named Guillaume Pradoura, was also not previously aware of the raids.

"The authorities have not contacted me or him. To me this all comes as a complete surprise," de Graaf wrote on X.

"I have no involvement whatsoever in any so-called Russian disinformation operation. I have my own political beliefs and I proclaim them. That is my job as a MEP," de Graaf said.

Pradoura previously worked as an assistant to MEP Maximilian Krah from Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD), another far-right populist party.

The searches are taking place just one week before the European Parliament is set to hold elections on June 6-9.

Ukraine war latest: Belgium signs security deal with Ukraine, pledges $1 billion in aid this year
Key updates on May 28: * Belgium signs security deal with Ukraine, pledges $1 billion in aid this year * Zelensky arrives in Portugal, signs bilateral security deal * Sending troops to Ukraine ‘shouldn’t be ruled out,’ Polish FM says * WSJ: Russia aims to produce 6,000 Shahed-type drones a year…
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