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Belgium to Probe Russian Interference  04/12 06:16

   

   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.

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

   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."

   EU nations have poured billions of euros into Ukraine, along with 
significant amounts of weaponry and ammunition. They've also slapped sanctions 
on top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, banks, companies 
and the energy sector since the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

   But as the war has dragged on, with Russian troops appearing now to hold a 
slim advantage, that support has become increasingly difficult to sustain. 
Hungary, Putin's closest European supporter, has held up the delivery of funds 
to Ukraine and is demanding that peace talks be held.

   Referring to the investigation by Belgian prosecutors, De Croo 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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