June 14th, 2024

Belgium will investigate suspected Russian interference in upcoming EU elections

By The Associated Press on April 12, 2024.

From left, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen participate in a media conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Lawmakers are voting Wednesday on a major revamp of the European Union's migration laws aiming to end years of division over how to manage the entry of thousands of people without authorization and deprive the far-right of a vote-winning campaign issue ahead of June elections. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

BRUSSELS (AP) – Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday an investigation into suspected Russian interference in Europe-wide elections in June, saying that his country’s intelligence service has confirmed the existence of a network trying to undermine support for Ukraine.

“Belgian intelligence services have confirmed the existence of pro-Russian interference networks with activities in several European countries and also here in Belgium,” said De Croo, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

De Croo said that Belgian agencies are working closely with the Czech authorities after a pro-Russian influence operation was uncovered there. He said that 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 told reporters.

De Croo said the “the goal is very clear: a weakened European support for Ukraine serves Russia on the battlefield and that is the real aim of what has been uncovered in the last weeks.”

Europe-wide polls are being held on June 6-9 to elect a new EU parliament.

De Croo said that Belgian prosecutors are taking action. He noted that “the cash payments did not take place in Belgium, but the interference does.”

“These are serious concerns and that is why I have taken action,” he said. “We cannot allow this type of Russian menace in our midst. We need to act, and we need to act both on the national level and we also need to act on the EU level.”

He provided no details about who might be under suspicion. Belgian authorities uncovered an influence-peddling operation at the European Parliament in December 2022 involving officials from Qatar. The government of Qatar has denied the allegations.

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