AfD delegation wants to travel to the Donbass: Putin's helpers in the war zone

AfD MPs want to travel to eastern Ukraine at Russia's invitation. The Ukrainian ambassador Melnyk is outraged, as are parts of the AfD.

Hans-Thomas Tillschneider speaks in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt

Travels to Russia: right-wing extremist and Putin propagandist Hans-Thomas Tillschneider Photo: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa

BERLIN taz | While again pictures of mass graves go around the world and testify to Russian war crimes after the attack on Ukraine, MPs from the extreme right-wing AfD continue to support Putin's propaganda: Several AfD MPs are apparently currently on their way to Russia to travel from there to Russian-occupied areas in the Donbass.

an appropriate one Report of the geopolitical non-governmental organization Christian Blex (AfD), member of the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament, confirmed the “Robert Lansing Institute” on his Facebook and Telegram channels late Monday afternoon. The co-head of state from Saxony-Anhalt, Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, and Daniel Wald, both members of the state parliament in Saxony-Anhalt, also confirmed the trip at almost the same time. Questions from the taz for details were left unanswered by the deputies.

Given the recent reports from Mass graves near Isjum particularly perfidious: Blex writes that the MPs wanted to try “to get a concrete picture of the humanitarian situation of the people in the Donbass region directly on site” and posted a pin with a German and a Russian flag. The trip is apparently taking place at the kind invitation of Russia. Because before he is supposed to go to the Ukraine, he will travel to the Russian Federation together with Tillschneider and Wald, Blex continues. According to the report by the Robert Lansing Institute, the forthcoming trip is even to take place under the auspices of the Russian military intelligence service.

Tillschneider and Wald sent their message about the trip via the AfD parliamentary group in the state parliament and, like Blex, created a mood against the media in this country: “To get your own picture of the humanitarian situation, beyond the critical reporting, especially by public broadcasters “, the “transnational delegation” will travel to Russia in the next few days and are also planning a visit to eastern Ukraine.

Diversion from Russian war crimes

According to information from the NGO, which describes itself as “a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization”, the AfD politicians wanted to visit parts of Russian-occupied Donbass from September 20 to 28 – under the supervision and coordination of the Russian military intelligence service. The organization relied on information from Blex from September 12, which was initially unverifiable. Accordingly, the delegation should fly to Rostov-on-Don in Russia and travel from there to the occupied Donbass areas. The NGO estimates that the visit is intended for Russian propaganda purposes - probably also to distract from Russian war crimes and to make Western military aid more difficult with disinformation.

The traveling AfD MPs are also known from the past for pro-Russian positions: they belong to the extreme right-wing network around Björn Höcke and at the last AfD federal party conference they voted for one Russia-friendly Europe resolution strengthened, about which the party congress had violently argued. Tillschneider has also been making pro-Putin statements, and not just since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On the night of the attack he even tweeted, that Russia is only defending itself.

The Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk, who was in office until mid-October, had already shared the NGO's report a few hours earlier. The outgoing diplomat called for intervention and drew the attention of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to the NGO report. A taz request to the Ministry of the Interior has so far gone unanswered. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution did not want to comment on this, but took note of the process, it said when asked by the taz.

Melnyk criticized the AfD connections to Russia in his usual sharp tone: He wrote to the Saxony-Anhalt head of state Martin Reichardt: “You and your AfD as Putin’s fifth column in Germany are fueling Russian aggression against the Ukrainian people with your Kremlin propaganda. You should close your chewing bar, you war crimes trivializers," Melnyk tweeted after Reichardt had previously described him as an "ungrateful beggar" in the recent debate about arms deliveries.

Outrage also within the AfD

But even within the AfD, the trip by their MPs caused major upheaval: the chairman of the state association of North Rhine-Westphalia, Martin Vincentz, had the taz request for the trip announced: "This has not been agreed with any party committee. It's a private trip." At least Tillschneider and Wald apparently enjoy support in their group despite the trip - after all, they sent their message about the trip via their press distribution list. Tillschneider is also a co-group leader.

On the other hand, more severe criticism, including outrage and calls for disciplinary measures, could be heard from party circles. On Tuesday evening, the federal board also dealt with the trip. This was apparently just as surprised as the state executive in North Rhine-Westphalia.

It's not the first time that AfD MPs have tried to legitimize Russian positions and propaganda. In the past, various AfD politicians have traveled to Crimea, among other places, to witness elections there as pseudo-election observers, apparently in some cases funded by the Kremlin, which may be illegal. Blex, for example, traveled to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia, in 2018.

also gave various AfD politicians despite Putin's war of aggression, Russian state media repeatedly interviewed. In one of these, Eugen Schmidt, member of the Bundestag, claimed, among other things, that Germany an unjust state be.

For Putin, international connections, especially to extreme right-wing to right-wing populist currents and parties, are a means of undermining Western democracies, experts estimate. Some AfD politicians, on the other hand, see Putin's authoritarian Russia as an alternative to the open society in the West, which they reject.

The AfD party leaders Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel have also visited Russia in the past, the former even repeatedly. There they were sometimes courted as if on a state visit. In the energy crisis, the AfD is also officially backing Putin-friendly demands, such as the end of sanctions against Russia and the opening of the Nord Stream II Baltic Sea pipeline.

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