Czech Republic unmasks network bribing European politicians, spreading Ukraine fake news

April 4,2024 667
Czech Republic unmasks network bribing European politicians, spreading Ukraine fake news

Czech counterintelligence has exposed a network of pro-Russian influence based in central Prague and operating a news site with anti-European and anti-Ukrainian articles. Data released on March 27 indicate that two Ukrainian businessmen were key players in the propaganda organization – pro-Russian oligarch and politician Viktor Medvedchuk and former general producer of 112 Ukraine TV channel Artem Marchevskyi.

“The goal of this influence group was to act against the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine on the territory of the European Union,” said Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, as quoted by intelligence.

Registered in the Czech Republic, the media company Voice of Europe created a prominent and influential resource with an anti-migrant focus. In particular, the Voice of Europe website now has 182 thousand subscribers on the X network.

“It was an English-language website that Medvedchuk’s people launched in October 2017 with an anti-migrant agenda. But over the past two years, they have also shifted to an anti-Ukrainian theme. They started with social networks and had many followers there, with just 352,000 followers on Facebook alone. This is actually a huge number,” said Ukrainian researcher of European far-right movements Anton Shekhovtsov in an interview with the Voice of America.

The secondary focus of the network involved “support” for far-right politicians who received payments in exchange for their commentary on a website. These articles predominantly targeted the Czech government with criticism.

“Paying for comments or interviews was a semi-legal way to ‘feed’ anti-European pro-Russian politicians. Considering the popularity of this resource, I think this is a serious step by Czech intelligence. Especially if they have a list of people who were given money,” Shekhovtsov says.

Politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Hungary received money from Voice of Europe to influence future elections to the European Parliament, Czech media write, citing sources in intelligence.

Medvedchuk, Marchevskyi, and their media company have been included in the Czech sanctions list, with accounts frozen.

Several European politicians have expressed concern about the intelligence data. Russia paid some members of the European Parliament to promote Russian propaganda, and this requires investigation within the country, said Belgian PM Alexander De Croo.

This does show how high the risk of foreign influence is. That is a threat to our democracy, to our free elections, to our freedom of speech, to everything,” said Dutch PM Mark Rutte.

Members of the European Parliament demand an investigation into reports of the disclosure of a network of Russian influence on European politicians, Politico writes. “If sitting MEPs or candidates in the upcoming European elections have taken money from or been corrupted by the Russian Government or their proxies, they must be exposed,” said the president of the liberal Renew group, Valérie Hayer, in a letter to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

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