Far-right AfD shrugs off Putin-propaganda allegations

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Petr Bystron, who is second on Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) candidate list for the European parliament elections in June, denies allegations that claim he took money to spread pro-Russian information.

Bystron is being accused of accepting 25,000 euros from the pro-Russian network Voice of Europe. He says the accusations are part of a “defamation campaign.”

AfD’s co-chairperson, Tino Chrupalla, downplayed the allegations in the German parliament on Tuesday.

“The presumption of innocence also applies to Peter Bystron. We are talking about suspicions, allegations. Currently, there is no evidence or proof available to us. Therefore, the presumption of innocence applies. And as of now, we take Peter Bystron’s word, in this case, more,” the co-leader added.

In March, Czech authorities sanctioned the website of the Voice of Europe after reports emerged that claimed several European politicians were paid to use their influence to discourage support for Ukrainian aid and weapons. 

MEPs are demanding an urgent enquiry into the scandal. They fear that political candidates from six EU countries, including France, Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands and Hungary, may have been be paid to push pro-Kremlin propaganda.

German political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder thinks the scandal will not affect the party in the upcoming polls.

“The AfD tends to emerge strengthened from such conflict situations. It’s not the first time. They develop a kind of victim culture. And the AfD usually says: ‘You just want to eliminate a strong competitor, you’re playing with the wrong cards, and there is no evidence,” he told Euronews.

Concerns are mounting over Moscow’s influence in the upcoming European elections.

The AfD’s first candidate for the European parliament, Maximilian Krah, suggested Bystron should suspend his campaign until the allegations against him have been cleared.

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