MEPs urge intelligence services to give names of Russia-financed politicians

  • 2024-04-12

BRUSSELS - Members of the European Parliament have called on intelligence services publish the names of persons who were paid by Russia.

The MEPs specifically pointed fingers at the EU's far right in Wednesday's debate on European politicians' connections with the aggressor state. 

"We demand the names, the numbers, who was paid, which party, by which intermediary, for which objective, and how much," said Valerie Hayer, a MEP from French President Emmanual Macron's Renesanse party. 

Her fellow party member Nathalie Loiseau said: "the [intelligence] services must make public what they know" before the European Parliament elections in June, because "people have a right to know if they are voting for honest candidates or bought candidates," she said.

Hayer had called for the debate on Russian interference following revelations by Czech and Polish intelligence services on March 27 that MEPs and MEP-candidates had been paid by Russia to spread propaganda.

The intermediary was allegedly a pro-Russian website based in Prague called Voice of Europe and run by a pro-Kremlin oligarch.

The sums were "tens of thousands of euros", the Czechs and Poles said, but they did not say who was paid, pending further investigations.

"We will not publish further details for now," BIS, the Czech domestic intelligence agency, told EUobserver.

A contact from another EU country's spy service, which is also taking part in the counterintelligence probe, said: "The intelligence services in the Czech Republic and Poland have communicated about this in public ... other services involved prefer not to communicate on this topic".

Hayer and Loiseau's calls to name names were echoed by centre-right, centre-left, and green MEPs from around Europe on Wednesday.

And suspicion has centred round far-right EU deputies who gave interviews to Voice of Europe, some of whom were present at the debate.

"[Russian president Vladimir] Putin has found links at the heart of our institution, starting with far-right deputies and national leaders, who call themselves nationalists, pretend to defend their countries, but in reality work for a hostile foreign tyranny," said French socialist Raphael Glucksmann.

Glucksmann also called out social-media firm X and its owner Elon Musk for continuing to host Voice of Europe content, despite the Czech accusation.

Czech liberal MEP Dita Charanzova said other EU states should follow Prague's example in taking Voice of Europe videos offline.

Czech green Marketa Gregorova said knowing that intelligence services were monitoring Russian pay-offs to MEPs made her feel "calmer".

But she added "we don't need the Voice of Europe or ID MEPs to show us we have a big effing problem" in terms of Russian hybrid warfare, referring to the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the EU Parliament.

Two of those who gave interviews to Voice of Europe, but who haven't been accused of taking Russian money, also took the floor to clear their names on Wednesday.

Spanish far-right Vox MEP Hermann Tertsch said former conservative and socialist German chancellors had done more to advance Russian interests in the EU than any far-right MEPs.

He also said the leftwing Spanish government helped Russia via its close ties with Russian allies Cuba and Venezuela.

Marcel de Graaff, an independent Dutch MEP, accused the EU of "violation of Christian rights", via its support of Covid-19 vaccines and abortion.

The Czech EU values commissioner, Vera Jourova, told MEPs she would crack down on online platforms that spread Russian lies, but said espionage or corruption allegations were matters for individual member states.

MEPs also called for an internal investigation into the Russia revelations, but the EU Parliament can do little beyond imposing a fine on deputies who did not declare payments from third parties.

The parliament found, also on Wednesday, that Latvian MEP Tatjana Zdanoka had breached its code of conduct on declaring income and gifts, following accusations she had worked with Russian spies. But Zdanoka's only sanction was to pay a EUR 1,750 fine, Politico web portal reported.