In the affair surrounding pro-Russian disinformation, AfD member of the Bundestag Petr Bystron denies having received payments from the Internet platform “Voice of Europe” (VoE) or from Russians. “At no time did I receive any money payments or cryptocurrencies from a VoE employee (or any Russian),” he wrote in a statement to the party leadership, which is available to the dpa.

However, a Ukrainian citizen also plays a role in the pro-Russian network. For its part, the Czech domestic secret service BIS does not plan to release any audio recordings of the case to the public for the time being. “The general rule is that this would be intelligence material that we do not publish,” said a spokesman in Prague when asked.

This is what Bystron is accused of

The Czech newspaper “Denik N” had previously reported that Bystron was suspected of having been in contact with the pro-Russian Internet platform “Voice of Europe”, which the Prague cabinet had recently placed on the national sanctions list. He may also have accepted money. Bystron’s name was said to have been mentioned at the cabinet meeting, the newspaper reported, citing several ministers. An unnamed government member said, citing the domestic secret service BIS, with reference to Bystron: “You can provide audio evidence of the handover of money.”

The AfD chairmen Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla had requested a written statement from Bystron. According to a party spokesman, it was received at midday. He said the party and parliamentary group executive committees would discuss this in the coming days. As things stand, Weidel and Chrupalla wanted to speak to Bystron personally on Monday.

Bystron, who is running for second place on the AfD list in the European elections on June 9th, wrote of a “defamation campaign against politicians from six European parties – including me.” An attempt is being made to prevent a strong performance by right-wing populist parties in Europe and the formation of a strong group in the European Parliament. “I have already contacted lawyers in both Germany and the Czech Republic to take action against this defamation.”

BIS does not plan to release

The Czech BIS spokesman said it was not customary for secret services to make such material available to other states. Apart from that, colleagues from a German intelligence service received “comparatively extensive information” about the case. “It is then up to them or the state organs how they appear to the public.” He did not want to provide further details because, according to him, it is an active case that several European secret services are working on.

Bystron was born in what was then Czechoslovakia. As a teenager he emigrated to Germany with his parents.

Baerbock: Bystron affair in the context of hybrid warfare

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock sees the affair in connection with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin’s hybrid warfare. The approach is aimed at hollowing out and undermining democracies in Europe from within, said the Green politician on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

The AfD’s leading candidate in the European elections, Maximilian Krah, told the “Welt” before receiving Bystron’s statement: “Petr Bystron should not make any election campaign appearances until the allegations in the room have been clarified.” Some in the party were surprised at this suggestion. When asked, Krah added that he had advised Bystron to “concentrate on clarification and to avoid public appearances.”

In addition to Bystron, Krah was also interviewed by “Voice of Europe”, according to his own statement once in Prague in September and a second time in January in Brussels. Krah emphasized that in his case, not even the Czech secret service claimed that he had accepted money.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior confirmed last week that cross-border cooperation between European security authorities had “uncovered a Russian influence operation against the European Parliament.” The network around the Ukrainian citizen Artyom Machevskyj, who has been subject to Czech sanctions, “exercises illegitimate influence on the European Parliament on behalf of Russia. To do this, it uses politicians from several European countries and provides considerable funds.”

Krah said he met Machewskyj before the first interview. When asked whether he was aware at the time that he was suspected of being a Russian agent of influence, he replied “No.”