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Latvian MEPs call for stricter rules on countering pro-Kremlin influence activity

European Parliament chamber in Strasbourg.
European Parliament chamber in Strasbourg. Source: ERR

European Parliament rules should be amended to better combat pro-Kremlin influencing activities at the legislature, Latvian MEPs say.

ERR's Joosep Värk reported from the parliament on Tuesday after it had discussed the issue of Tatyana Zhdanok, also styled as Tatjana Ždanoka, who has been working effectively as a Russian intelligence agent, according to recently leaked emails.

Latvia has already amended its domestic legislation to bar Zhdanok from running at this year's European Parliament election, or at any subsequent European elections.

Media reports at the end of January revealed that Zhdanok has been cooperating with individuals connected to Russian security agencies over a period of many years.

Zhdanok, 73, who sits with the European Free Alliance  faction, herself said "Yes I am an agent. An agent for peace, and an agent for [a] Europe without fascism, an agent for minority rights, an agent for [a] united Europe, from Lisbon to [the] Ural[s]."

ERR spoke to Roberts Zile  Vice President of the European Parliament for the National Alliance, a free market national conservative political party in Latvia, who said that: "My opinion is that because of the first [case] we had some national legislation until 2016 when it was changed more strictly and it was allowed for security services to start some investigations against suspicious politicians, also here in the European Parliament and also at the national parliament."

Ivars Ijabs, an MEP from Latvia who sits with the Renew Europe faction, meanwhile said: "This is of course not just about Madam Zhdanok, this is also about many parties and political forces all across Europe being subsidized, being promoted by the Kremlin or Kremlin-related people.

"I'm talking about FPO in Austria, about Le Pen's party in France, and AfD in Germany," he added.

Taking away parliamentary immunity is also considered problematic in terms of how lengthy the procedure is, at European level.

Roberts Zile added that: "The European Parliament just must change the rules and cooperate on situations where member state security services requesting a case of removal of immunity because of the suspicious case with spying and other similar crimes with foreign services, so it should be done as a separate procedure."

An article published by The Insider had outlined Zhdanok activities in relation to the FSB, Russia's principal security organ.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Joosep Värk.

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