German lawmakers assail far-right party over alleged China, Russia links following spying arrest

BERLIN (AP) — The German government and opposition lawmakers assailed the far-right Alternative for Germany for its alleged closeness to Russia and China Thursday after an assistant to a legislator for the party was arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing.

This week’s arrest of an aide to European Parliament lawmaker Maximilian Krah cast an unflattering light on the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which has long faced criticism for Russia-friendly positions. Krah said he would dismiss the employee, Jian Guo, but remain the AfD’s top candidate for the European Parliament election in June.

One reason why Germany is a focus of Russian and Chinese spying is “the existence of a right-wing extremist party … that is prepared eagerly to take up every narrative from China and Russia and spread it,” Konstantin Kuhle of the Free Democrats, one of the parties in the coalition government, told a debate in the German parliament in which mainstream lawmakers lined up to criticize the AfD. “So one must say very clearly: AfD is a weak point in German democracy when it comes to our defense of our liberal democracy.”

A lawmaker with the conservative opposition Christian Democrats, Marc Henrichmann, accused the AfD of “betraying and selling out the German people.” He referred to recent allegations involving the party as “Russia today, China tomorrow.”

AfD lawmaker Stefan Keuter accused mainstream politicians of trying to “distract from your own political failure” with help from security services, portraying his party as the victim of a campaign. “Why is this issue popping up now, at the time of an election campaign? That’s very obvious,” he said.

The debate came as prosecutors in the eastern city of Dresden said they were considering whether to open an investigation into Krah himself. Those proceedings are unrelated to federal prosecutors’ investigation of Guo, they said in an emailed response to a query about the case.

They said the preliminary probe, which may or may not lead to a formal investigation, stems from reports of possible Russian and Chinese payments for Krah’s work as a lawmaker.

News magazine Der Spiegel and public broadcaster ZDF reported last week that Krah was questioned by the FBI at the end of a visit to the United States in December about possible payments from pro-Russian sources.

Krah has denied receiving any such payments. He wrote on social platform X that the preliminary investigation was “expectable given the press situation and routine” and added that “we are still in the area of suppositions and insinuations.”

Separately, the no. 2 on the AfD’s list for the European Parliament election, Petr Bystron, earlier this month denied allegations in a Czech daily that he may have received money from a pro-Russian network.

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