Germany probes far-right MP accused of taking Russian bribes

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German prosecutors and police have launched a corruption investigation into Petr Bystron, an MP for the far-right Alternative for Germany, for links to a covert Kremlin campaign to spread pro-Russian disinformation across Europe.

The campaign was allegedly orchestrated by Ukrainian pro-Kremlin oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk ahead of European parliament elections next month.

Czech authorities alleged in March that Medvedchuk and his long-time associate Artem Marchevskyi set up an online outlet in Prague called Voice of Europe, which they said was not only used to spread Russian propaganda in 16 languages but also to funnel money to Russia-friendly candidates standing in the EU elections.

German authorities believe Bystron, an AfD MP with Czech roots who is the second on the AfD list for the EU election and is its spokesman for foreign affairs, is one of the politicians who received money from Voice of Europe. He was a frequent guest on VoE and spouted pro-Moscow lines in interviews with the outlet.

Belgian security officials say intelligence investigations have been launched across Europe into elected officials suspected of taking up to €1mn a month from Medvedchuk and Marchevskyi.

Medvedchuk, who lives in Moscow after being swapped for Ukrainian war prisoners, has not commented on the accusations. Marchevskyi has gone into hiding and claims he is innocent.

Der Spiegel reported recently that Czech intelligence services had secretly recorded Bystron complaining to Marchevskyi about the denominations of banknotes he had received, which he said were too high to be accepted in any German petrol station or shop.

Bystron denied the allegations, telling Der Spiegel they were part of a “Nato campaign” to discredit parties “that are in favour of peace and are fighting against the continuation of the war in Ukraine”. He could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors and police in Munich said on Thursday they were investigating a German MP “on the initial suspicion of the corruption of elected officials and of money laundering”.

A spokesman for the prosecution declined to name the MP. But earlier the Bundestag lifted Bystron’s parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

They said searches were being carried out at properties in Berlin and Bavaria as well as Mallorca. “Evidence is being secured which will subsequently be evaluated,” the statement said, while stressing that the “presumption of innocence applies”. German media reported that Bystron’s office in the Bundestag in Berlin was also searched.

The searches add to the AfD’s mounting legal problems. A staffer of Maximilian Krah, a member of the European parliament who is the party’s top candidate in the EU elections, was arrested last month on charges of spying for China.

Krah has also appeared on Voice of Europe, though he has denied receiving payments from the outlet.