“Kremlingate”: Suspicion of bribery against AfD MPs | STERN.de

“Kremlingate”: Suspicion of bribery against AfD MPs |  STERN.de

According to the Czech domestic secret service, the AfD’s EU candidate, Petr Bystron, is said to have received money from Russia. But the Bundestag member is not the only one under pressure.

The AfD’s top candidate for the European elections sounds audibly ailing. “A stupid cold,” Maximilian Krah says into the phone and coughs loudly. He actually needs to rest for a few days.

But nothing is coming of it. The Saxon EU MP constantly has to hold discussions. It is important to limit possible political collateral damage, for the party but also for him.

For now it’s just about Petr Bystron, who is placed directly behind Krah on the electoral list. The Czech native has been sitting in the Bundestag for the Bavarian AfD since 2017 and has already caused a number of scandals. Sometimes he employed supposedly extreme employees, sometimes he completed target practice at a racist organization in South Africa, sometimes he attended a meeting of Hungarian right-wing radicals. When he allowed disruptors into the Reichstag building during the pandemic, his own parliamentary group executive even temporarily banned him from speaking.

Anonymous sources from the Czech secret service

Now Bystron is at the center of an affair surrounding the Internet platform “Voice of Europa,” which was obviously remotely controlled by Russia – and which conducted interviews with the German Bundestag member. In this context, the Czech newspaper “Denik N” reports, Bystron may have accepted money. The medium quotes anonymous sources from the Czech domestic secret service BIS who claim that the handover was documented with an audio recording.

The AfD MP, who has been spreading Putin propaganda for years, initially responded to the allegations rather evasively. But after discontent grew within his own party, he denied it more clearly. “,” he told the Funke media group.

But the AfD chairmen Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla wanted to know a little more about this. They gave Bystron a deadline of this Thursday at 2 p.m. By then he should “dispel all allegations beyond doubt,” said an email from the Federal Managing Director, which was sent to the star is present. After all, there are only two months left until the European elections. According to consistent information, Bystron also denied all allegations in his answer to the party leaders.

The top candidate is also coming under pressure

For Maximilian Krah, on the other hand, the matter is not only unpleasant as a top candidate: it also affects him personally. After all, he himself gave two interviews to the platform, which has now been placed on the sanctions list by the Prague government. Like Bystron, he was also in contact with Putin’s rich friend Viktor Medvedchuk, who is said to be behind “Voice of Europe”, among other things.

This is also why Krah quickly and harshly denied the rumors that he had also received Russian money. He is also loyal to Bystron. “He told me that he didn’t accept any money,” he says star. “I have no reason to doubt it.” In any case, the presumption of innocence applies until proven otherwise: “We won’t have number 2 shot away because of a secret service operation!” says Krah, referring to the source of the allegations.

At the same time, however, Krah, who is one of the most controversial politicians in his party, is noticeably distancing himself. “I recommend that he not plan any campaign appearances for the time being and concentrate on raising awareness,” he says. It is important that the speculation stops.

Brandner: “Take necessary measures”

Federal Deputy Chief Stephan Brandner made similar comments. “I believe Mr. Bystron more than vague Czech sources,” he says star, but immediately added: “In principle, speculation is forbidden, but: If the allegations were true, then I would have no understanding at all.” Now it’s a matter of the party clarifying the facts, listening to those affected and taking “the necessary measures based on the results.”

In fact, the AfD has a certain amount of practice with its own investigations against its EU candidates. Shortly after the list party conference in the summer of 2023, there were justified allegations against Arno Bausemer (10th place) and Mary Khan-Holoch (14th place) that they had embellished their CVs when applying. Because the party base was in turmoil, the party leadership felt compelled to conduct an investigation, as a result of which they banned both of them from holding office for two years.

Bausemer and Khan-Holoch remained on the list anyway. And the embarrassing episode didn’t do any harm to the AfD’s poll numbers either. The first measurable setback only occurred when the large demonstrations against right-wing extremism took place at the beginning of this year and, at the same time, the Sahra Wagenknecht alliance began to establish itself as left-wing populist competition. In the meantime, the party has slipped well below 20 percent in the surveys for the European elections.

The AfD leadership is demonstratively calm

Nevertheless, the top candidate remains undeterred. “I don’t think this story will hurt us in the end,” says Krah. “If we communicate this well, it certainly won’t decide the election campaign.”

From the point of view of the Thuringian AfD chairman Stefan Möller, the affair will have a “manageable effect” regardless of its veracity. “Our members and voters read every negative report through an appropriate filter,” says Björn Höcke’s co-country chief and immediately uses the now obligatory dictatorship comparison: “Ultimately, it’s like in the GDR again, that you read between the lines.”

And yet, in all the demonstrative self-assurance, nervousness can be felt. The AfD seems to have lost its momentum, at least for the time being, and is now faced with the anxious question of whether its tried and tested Teflon layer will hold up this time too.

Either way, the competition wants to take advantage of their opportunity. After FDP Bundestag vice-president Wolfgang Kubicki once blasphemed, the left-wing party leader and EU top candidate Martin Schirdewan speaks of a “Kremlingate”. If it turns out that Bystron is for sale, there must be consequences, he told Stern. “And those The consequence for political corruption and bribery of representatives is the deprivation of eligibility.” Krah also needs to be asked questions: “Instead of hypocritically puffing himself up now, he should explain why he was only too happy to be a guest of the propaganda portals.”

After all, the top candidate, as a member of the federal executive board, has the privilege of being there on Monday when the party leadership discusses the allegations and Bystron’s statement. Until then he will probably have to have many more discussions.

Source: Stern

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