Alexander De Croo Prime Minister of Belgium says investigators discovered Russian groups are trying to influence the European Parliament elections. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)


Belgium to probe alleged Russian interference in EP elections


Belgian prosecutors are looking into possible Russian interference in the upcoming European Parliament elections in June following findings provided by intelligence services, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has said.

On April 12, he said investigators found that Russian groups were meddling in the EP elections to push forward pro-Russia candidates and thus weaken European support for Ukraine against Russia’s two-year-old invasion.

“The objective is to help elect more pro-Russian candidates to the European Parliament and reinforce a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution,” De Croo said.

“Weakened European support for Ukraine serves Russia on the battlefield,” he added

De Croo said the Belgian investigation was launched after Czech authorities found pro-Russian agents active in Brussels seeking to influence, and pay, European lawmakers to promote a pro-Russian agenda.

It appeared that cash payments were not made in Belgium although interference had occurred there, he said.

Western nations have repeatedly accused Russian operatives of using social media and the internet to spread false or misleading information to undermine them, promote Russia or attempt to sway public opinion election campaigns.

Russian authorities have repeatedly denied the accusations.

Ahead of the EP elections, parties that have criticised European Union support for Ukraine, such as France’s right-wing Rassemblement National, Austria’s Freedom Party and Germany’s AfD, are set to gain more votes than five years ago.

De Croo has said he had asked for an urgent meeting of the EU’s Agency for Criminal and Justice Co-operation to discuss the matter and suggested OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office, should prosecute the case.

“We have a responsibility and our responsibility is to uphold that every citizen’s right to a free and safe vote can be maintained,” he said.