Germany’s far-right AfD party to visit eastern Ukraine

BERLIN – Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany party said they traveled to Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, providing food for pro-Kremlin propaganda while there. Moscow is increasingly calling for a quick annexation of Ukrainian territories.

Christian Blex, a representative in the regional parliament in the western state of North Rhine Westphalia, said he was on his way to Russia, on his way to occupying Ukraine, along with Hans Thomas Tillschneider and Daniel Wald, colleagues from the eastern state. Saxony Anhalt.

Blex, posted on Telegram, said the purpose of the trip was “to try to get a concrete picture of the humanitarian situation” in the Ukrainian-occupied Donbas region. “The coverage of the Western media, especially the so-called German public broadcasters and other pro-government media, is extremely one-sided,” he said.

The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in Saxony Anhalt on Monday said two members of the regional parliament were part of the delegation “currently traveling to Russia”. It said: “A visit to eastern Ukraine has been planned.

Russia regularly claims without evidence that residents of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine are being persecuted by Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv. In fact, Russia provoked a separatist war in the two regions in 2014 and has long controlled the local governments of the self-declared “people’s republics” Luhansk and Donetsk.

Separatist regions push to join Russia as war effort stalls

On Monday, officials from those breakaway regions called for a snap referendum vote to urge Russia to annex those territories, with signs of concern that the war effort Russia is failing. On Tuesday, members of the occupation government in the southern Kherson region called for a similar vote.

Before launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent. The visit of the AfD lawmakers aims to validate the Kremlin’s claim that the regions need Russian protection.

With Russia facing a serious manpower problem in its war against Ukraine, the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, passed amendments on Tuesday that stiffer penalties for soldiers who defect. army or refuse to fight.

The move follows a recent major retreat of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, giving up without many battle towns that have been held for months and leaving behind large amounts of military equipment. . Ukrainian forces continue to make advances in that area, in the northeast, and are also launching a separate offensive in the Kherson area.

Amendments are almost certainly passed by the Federal Council, the upper house. Hard-line war advocates have demanded a tougher approach to “special military operations” in Ukraine, even as the Kremlin insists that all goes according to plan.

The amendments immediately fueled speculation that Putin might opt ​​for a nationwide military mobilization, including a draft. It’s a move Putin has avoided so far because it would be unpopular and would contradict his own assertion that Russia “loses nothing and will lose nothing” in the war.

Russia’s military payroll problem worsened as soldiers reneged on contracts and surrendered or deserted. Even a massive recruiting effort, including join the army and sending volunteers to the front lines with little training, did not help Russia regain lost military momentum.

Under the amendments adopted by the State Duma, deserters who are absent for more than a month will face a maximum sentence of 10 years, compared to the current maximum of five years. Soldiers who refuse to fight or deploy can be jailed for up to three years. Voluntary surrender can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison while looters can be fined up to 15 years.

Prominent Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan, who is promoting a tougher approach towards Ukraine, has hinted on social media that Russia will step up its actions. Simonyan, like other pundits and propagandists on state television, has argued for months that Russia is facing an existential war against NATO.

“Judging by what is happening and what is to come, this week marks the moment of our imminent victory or the eve of nuclear war. I can’t see any third option,” Simonyan posted on social media.

Russia’s military failures seem to be stirring up critics of the war. In recent days, a group of local lawmakers in Russia have called for Putin’s impeachment and the country’s biggest pop star, Alla Pugacheva, has posted criticism of the fight on Instagram, where she has 3.4 million followers.

Even so, the Kremlin seems invested in creating a smokescreen of support for its actions in Ukraine.

The UK-based Robert Lansing Institute, a non-partisan research group, highlighted a visit to the AfD this week, describing it as part of a “information and psychological activity“Moscow’s aim is to deflect allegations of potential war crimes and discredit Ukraine and its allies.

‘Look, these are our boys’: Ukrainian army drives Russian tanks on new front lines

Russia has swear to annexation parts of eastern Ukraine it controls. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is now vice chairman of the country’s Security Council, said on Tuesday that it was “necessary” referendums to be held in the separatist regions of the east. Ukraine.

On Twitter, former Ukraine ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk said the AfD visit was pro-Russia “war of destruction“And call on Germany’s domestic intelligence service to act. On Twitter, Tillschneider replied that the delegation wanted “its own picture” of “distorted and partisan reporting.”

The relationship between Moscow and Europe’s far-right parties is mutually supportive. Russia has long flirted with Europe’s far-right parties as they seek to undermine the European Union’s liberal democracies.

In recent months, German politicians have been particularly concerned that the AfD will incite enthusiasm over the energy crisis in Europe, serving Putin’s goals by stirring up discontent and posing questions. asked if the West’s support for the Ukraine war was worth it.

Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina and Natalia Abbakumova of Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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