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By Oliver Noyan and Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com and EURACTIV.de
Leading members of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party Joerg Urban (L), Hans-Thomas Tillschneider (C)and Bjoern Hocke. [EPA-EFE/SEAN GALLUP]
A delegation of the German far-right party AfD, including three members of regional parliaments, will visit the Russian-occupied territories of eastern Ukraine this week in a trip reported by the media to be sponsored by the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, analysts suggest that AfD’s Russian links should be seen in light of the party’s efforts to shore up its voter base.
The delegation left Germany for Russia on Monday and will travel to the East of Ukraine in the coming days to “clarify the humanitarian situation,” the party said in a statement.
“In view of distorted and biased reporting on the Ukraine conflict, we want to get our own picture of the situation and assess the humanitarian situation,” Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, deputy chairman of the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt and member of state parliament, said on Twitter.
The Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin reacted fiercely to the planned visit and even called on the Office of the Protection of the Constitution to take action against the three regional MPs, who are supporting the “Russian war of destruction” through their actions, he said on Twitter.
The AfD has been accused of taking pro-Russian positions for a long time. While they officially condemned the war in Ukraine, they are advocating opening Nord Stream 2 and stopping any weapon deliveries to Ukraine.
It is not the first time that the AfD is visiting Ukrainian territories held by Russia. Already in 2018 during the Russian election, several high-ranking AfD politicians visited Crimea, which has been illegally annexed by Russia since 2014.
Multiple media has reported the visit was sponsored by the Russian Duma.
Shoring up voter base?
Analysts claim that AfD’s stance toward the Kremlin’s policy must be interpreted in light of the party’s need to shore up its voter base.
The AfD enjoys more support in eastern Germany, which is sceptical of EU membership and where historic ties include residual cultural empathy with Russia, according to DW.
Germany is home to one of the largest diasporas with a Russia-linked background with an estimated 6 million Russian-speaking people living in the country.
About a third emigrated to Germany in the 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union, most of them ethnic Germans, but referred to as Russia Germans (Russlanddeutsche), who settled in various parts of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. A further 2 million are ethnic Russians.
Russian-born Germans in recent years received increased media attention, as surveys show that the far-right performs notably better in areas that are densely populated by Russian-born Germans.
Meanwhile, media reports suggest this Russian diaspora is facing increased hostility and harassment following Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.
(Oliver Noyan | EURACTIV.de, Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)