German Pro-Putin Party Under the Intelligence Surveillance
Alternative for Germany political group is the first party to be monitored in this way since the Nazi era ended in 1945.
Germany’s BfV, Bureau for the Protection of the Constitutional Order, the domestic intelligence service has formally placed Alternative for Germany under surveillance on suspicion of trying to undermine Germany’s democratic constitution, a person briefed on the move said on Wednesday.
The pro-Moscow party was propelled into the Bundestag in 2017 by voters angry with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome more than one million migrants. But it has been ostracised by other parties, which say its rhetoric contributes to an atmosphere of hatred that encourages violence against immigrants.
The BfV’s move follows a two-year review of the AfD’s political platform, and will allow the agency to eavesdrop on calls and conversations involving AfD members and scrutinise party funding.
A spokeswoman for the BfV declined to comment, citing a court case brought by the AfD, but the party was furious.
The agenda is clear. First we are made a ‘case to investigate’, now we are a ‘suspected case’ and are under surveillance – and at some point there will be a request to ban our party, said Alexander Gauland, the AfD’s parliamentary floor leader. That, thank God, will be a decision for the Constitutional Court and not the BfV, he added.
Gauland and AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla told a news conference that they had only learnt about the decision, first reported by the magazine Der Spiegel, from media reports. They accused the BfV of trying to hurt their chances in September’s national election.
Close to Kremlin
Moscow is not hiding cordial relations with the German political party.
In February 2017, then leader of AfD Ms Frauke Petry discussed possible cooperation between Russian and German regional assemblies with top Kremlin officials and Vladimir Putin himself. It was more than obvious that Kremlin offered financial assistance to the party, according to the several reports.
In 2019 DW radio sponsored in part by German government reported that Mr Markus Frohnmaier, an MP for the far-right AfD party, could be controlled by Russia. He took regularly Moscow-friendly positions.
In December 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted a delegation from the far-right German party, Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in the highest-level reception the anti-immigrant group has received so far in Moscow.
Jewish groups welcomed the decision
The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the decision, saying: “The AfD’s destructive politics undermine our democratic institutions and discredit democracy among citizens.”
The AfD registered 12.6% support in the 2017 federal election to become the third-biggest party in the Bundestag, and also has lawmakers in all 16 regional assemblies.
But its support has fallen to some 9% in recent surveys, dented by infighting and its opposition to lockdown measures to stem the coronavirus pandemic.