Belgian prosecution opened into suspected Russian payments to influence MEPs

Investigators examine suspected payment of European politicians by Russian operatives

Federal investigators in Belgium have opened a prosecution into suspected payments made by Russian operatives to members of the European Parliament, in an attempt to influence the upcoming elections.

In recent weeks it emerged security services in the Czech Republic and Belgium had uncovered a Russian misinformation network spreading propaganda that implicated sitting MEPs.

In a press conference on Friday, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said federal prosecutors had in recent days started proceedings against individuals suspected of being involved.

“The investigation shows that Moscow has approached European members of parliament, has also paid European members of parliament, in order to promote a Russian agenda here,” he said.


Cash payments had been made to MEPs to interfere and push pro-Russian narratives, with security services in Belgium also examining the “bribery”, Mr De Croo said.

He said he could not provide details of the names of any MEPs implicated, their nationalities or political groupings in parliament as the information was classified. The revelations come less than two months before European Parliament elections being held on June 7th.

“According to our intelligence service the objectives of Moscow are very clear, the objective is to help elect more pro-Russia candidates to the European Parliament and to reinforce a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution,” Mr De Croo said.

The Belgian prime minister said the goal of the Russia operation was to weaken public support for Ukraine in the war.

“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 said.

“On the national level our judicial authorities have now confirmed that this interference is subject to a prosecution ... The cash payment did not take place in Belgium but the interference does,” he said.

“Our federal prosecutors has started an investigation, which is based on declassified reports that our intelligence services have brought up, the day before yesterday,” he said.

Belgian officials are to seek an urgent meeting of the EU’s criminal justice agency, Eurojust, to discuss the concerns about Russian election interference. Mr de Croo said he also intended to raise the matter with EU leaders during the European Council summit in Brussels next week. “My message is, let’s open our eyes, we are seeing that certain things are happening,” he said.

The centrist Belgian prime minister said politicians also needed to consider whether the EU public prosecutor’s office had enough powers to be able to target such interference.

Hadja Lahbib, Belgian foreign minister, told the press conference a number of Russian diplomats suspected of being involved in espionage had been deported from the country in recent months.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times