Did Thierry Baudet take Russian money? He says messages were ironic
Dutch far-right politician Thierry Baudet, one of the main backers of the 2016 referendum on Ukraine and the EU, has links to Russia, takes a soft line on Moscow, and has hinted at taking Russian money, according to a report by investigative television programme Zembla.
The claims of Russian influence on the MP are based on conversations with dozens of people in and around Baudet’s party Forum voor Democratie and on the views of international experts in Russian infiltration in the west.
The programme focused on several internal Whatsapp messages in which Baudet spoke about his Russian contacts and made comments about payments. It also looked at the role of pro-Kremlin advisors and contacts in his political circles, as well as his approach to Russia in debates – particularly with reference to the MH17 disaster.
In particular, the programme looked at Baudet’s relationship with pro-Russian Ukrainian Vladimir Kornilov and with British pro-Putin conservative John Laughland. Laughland, described by Baudet as an important party ideologist, was recently invited by the FvD founder to address the Dutch parliament about judicial independence.
Baudet told Zembla in a long rebuttal of the programme that the references to being paid by Russia in two Whatsapp messages were ironic and a ‘running gag’ within the party. He said he had translated, one or possibly two, articles by Kornilov during the referendum campaign.
‘We have never had any money [from Russia] and my ideas are not for sale,’ Baudet said.
Henk Otten, later thrown out of the FvD, but treasurer at the time of the referendum, said he had taken the Whatsapp messages seriously and had warned Baudet about getting too close to Russia. However, he told Zembla, he had not seen any evidence of payments from the Kremlin.
Claims of links between Dutch eurosceptic and far right parties, and Russia are not new. At the time of the 2016 Dutch referendum on Ukraine’s membership of the EU, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper said Russian influence had been ‘detected’ and that ‘arguments deployed in support of the referendum “closely resembled” known Russian propaganda.’
Several of the referendum’s backers also said that the decision to seek a vote on the Ukraine pact was made for political expediency as it was the first issue available to test support for the EU since advisory referendums were made possible in law.
Baudet, one of the people behind the referendum, said at the time he considered the claims of Russian influence to be ‘very funny.’ ‘I have never seen a cent from a foreign organisation,’ he said. ‘This would appear to be a witch hunt against Russia. It would seem that being a Eurosceptic makes you a Russian ally. That is not reality.’
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