The German far-right political party AFD announced it will travel to Russia and eastern Ukraine, ostensibly meaning Russian-occupied territories, in the next few days.
AfD justified the visit by the need to “get their own picture of the humanitarian situation, beyond the reporting that has been criticized.” The political party cited its own survey, which was claimed to show that a third of all Saxony-Anhalt residents feel German media are informing them objectively about the “Russia-Ukraine conflict” and one half think coverage is unbalanced.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk lashed out against the visit “in support of the Russian war of annihilation,” calling it a criminal offense (incitement to the crime of aggression):
‼️@AfD Abgeordnete besuchen nächste Woche die von Moskau besetzte Ostukraine, um den🇷🇺Vernichtungskrieg zu unterstützen.— Andrii Melnyk (@MelnykAndrij) September 18, 2022
Hier liegt ein Straftatbestand (Aufstacheln zum Verbrechen der Aggression,
§80a StGB) vor.
Herr Haldenwang, Zeit zu handeln @BfV_Bund‼️ https://t.co/dgq01mRYYu pic.twitter.com/9Ppi5o3tlG
The Robert Lansing Institute for Global Threats and Democracies Studies has said the visit will take place during 20-28 September 2022, under the auspices of the Russian military intelligence “that coordinates the work with the AfD.”
“Some AfD members from this region have already been involved in Russian ops,” the Institute wrote, claiming that this “psycho-op” is aimed at disguising Russian war crimes and stopping western military aid to Ukraine, where Russia is waging a full-fledged war for the seventh month.
The Institute writes that the delegation will fly to Rostov-on-Don, Russia, and from there will be driven then to the occupied Donbas, where it may be allowed to meet Ukrainian POWs and then spread information denying their ill-treatment by the Russians, as well as receive pseudo-evidence of support for Russians in the villages of occupied Ukraine, where Russia plans a staged distribution of humanitarian aid to the locals.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, AfD, which holds 11% of seats in the Bundestag, has criticized the German government’s position on assistance to Kyiv and advocated for dialogue with Russia. However, in late June, AfD unexpectedly split as West German delegates demanded to use the word “war,” not “conflict,” to describe events in Ukraine.
Because of AfD’s position, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it the “party of Russia.”
This is not the first visit of AfD politicians to Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine. In 2018, a delegation of AfD MPs saw no “Russian occupation” in Crimea. In 2019, a group of MPs from AfD again traveled to Crimea in a visit whose purpose experts explained by spreading populism in Europe.