EU Member states accused of having too close ties with Moscow

Exiled former Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky says Kremlin has infiltrated top echelons of European governments and ‘probably' has a source close to Angela Merkel.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

11 May 2021

Russian philanthropist Mikhail Khodorkovsky has accused some politicians in many Member States of having too close ties with the Kremlin.

He was speaking online at a meeting on Monday with the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference about the Kremlin's tampering in EU affairs.

Khodorkovsky, who currently lives in London, is the founder of the Dossier Centre, an organisation that tracks the criminal activity of people associated with the Kremlin. He said the claims he made were based on information obtained by the Centre.

He told MEPs that a report compiled by the Centre highlights the scale of Russian attempts to influence foreign powers in the West.

However, some members questioned his credibility highlighting that he was the subject of an international arrest warrant.

Speaking from the UK, Khodorkovsky said, "The information and facts in the report are correct. What the Kremlin is doing is like what it did in the Cold War era and this should raise concern.

"The Kremlin has close contacts with politicians in Europe at different levels and this is done in order to undermine foreign policy in the EU and to provoke conflict, division and physical intimation" Mikhail Khodorkovsky

"There is clear evidence of very unfriendly behaviour by Russia, including the Russian special services being involved in the poisoning of Russian opposition leaders.”

"Russia has also fuelled the conflict in Ukraine and has made repeated attempts to influence the foreign policy of western countries.”

"Some politicians in Europe are paid by the Kremlin. I am not saying all individuals who travel to Russia on a Kremlin invitation are all corrupt or unscrupulous, but they should all think hard about what impression this creates."

"Germany has come under a lot of attack from the Kremlin and dozens of Bundestag representatives have ties with the Kremlin. They are cronies of Mr Putin. The Kremlin probably also has a source close to Angela Merkel."

He added, "Russia is trying to promote ultra-conservative values and even Russian railways officials are used to find allies in the West and to lobby on behalf of Russia.”

"France is being used as a base for pro-Kremlin projects and to influence French public opinion. In Greece, there have been plans to launch a pro-Kremlin political party in Europe and there are 30 Greek municipalities that are pro-Kremlin."

He told Special Committee members, "This is all evidence that Kremlin spin doctors want to find pro-Russia politicians in Europe in order to promote anti-EU propaganda.”

"The Kremlin has close contacts with politicians in Europe at different levels and this is done in order to undermine foreign policy in the EU and to provoke conflict, division and physical intimation."

"I'm very concerned we're being drawn into internal domestic politics in Russia" Clare Daley MEP

He said he was, if required, able to provide proof of his claims.

The centre was set up in 2011 to uncover the criminal activities of various people associated with the Kremlin.

A philanthropist and former CEO of the Russian oil company Yukos he said his aim was to work for a stronger civil society in Russia.

A fierce critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Khodorkovsky was imprisoned in 2003 on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He denied the charges and Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

He was released in 2013. Shortly after, the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Russian Government had violated international law by taking Yukos over from its shareholders for political purposes.

Lithuanian member Rasa Juknevičienė defended his claims, and said, “The Centre is a source of truthful and accurate info about Russia. The EU must do more counter this kind of disinformation."

But Irish left wing member Clare Daley was scornful of the claims and told Khodorkovsky, “I have to say, I was wondering why we didn't get the documents, which we're hearing about today, before the hearing, so we could read them, examine the evidence and prepare some questions, as would be normal.”

"I think I'm a little bit clearer now, because if I understand from what the speaker is saying, you can't prove the content of the documents you're talking about in court, you're not going to publish them, but yet you've come in here and made a large amount of frankly alarming and outlandish claims based on these secret documents."

"Without wanting to be rude the picture you're painting is not very clear to me. It's actually somewhat hysterical. You talk about connections, but connections are not necessarily bad”.

She quizzed Khodorkovsky on whether, as an opponent of the Kremlin, he had a vested interest in portraying Russia as interfering in EU affairs," adding, "I'm very concerned we're being drawn into internal domestic politics in Russia".

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