The AfD politician is accused of accepting payments from a pro-Russian propaganda portal. The party leadership remains lenient.

Portrait of Petr Bystron at the lectern

Petr Bystron of the AfD would have accepted bribes Photo: Carsten Koall/dpa

SEDAN taz | When Petr Bystron speaks, he reminds us a bit of a bad Clint Eastwood caricature: short gray hair, squinty eyes, and a slightly confusing pronunciation. However, the 51-year-old Czech-German AfD politician does not say Hollywood phrases, but rather often utters conspiratorial ideological clichés with anti-Semitic overtones.

When running for second place on the AfD's European electoral list, the Bundestag member spoke of “globalists who want to forcibly vaccinate us, expropriate us and, in principle, enslave us,” and also whispered about an alleged elite conspiracy ( Jewish) by “Schwab, Gates and Soros”. He asked himself why he wanted to run in Europe and quickly gave the answer: “Yes, the Bundestag is the best scenario, but the poison comes from Brussels, where the globalists draw up the specifications silently and secretly.” He got a lot of applause and he was elected with 82 percent.

It is now clear that Bystron may have had another motivation for his candidacy. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former head of the AfD's foreign policy working group is at the center of a scandal involving Russian influence and corruption. According to Czech security authorities, the Russian disinformation portal “Voice of Europe”, to which AfD politicians have repeatedly given interviews, not only served for propaganda purposes, but also to exert covert financial influence on the candidates. Kremlin supporters. Czech security authorities. Several hundred thousand euros are said to have entered six European countries – according to an investigation by Denik N. and Mirror in Prague in cash or transferred via cryptocurrency.

The Czech secret service is said to have an audio recording proving that Bystron was bribed. The Munich Public Prosecutor's Office has launched a preliminary investigation against Bystron and the Bundestag will deal with the sensitive accusations in the Interior Commission and the Parliamentary Control Commission from Wednesday. The AfD tried to limit the damage: On Monday, Bystron had to appear before the federal executive committee to explain himself verbally. The interrogation on the conference call reportedly lasted 20 minutes.

“Globalist campaign”

Bystron is said to have again denied any payments to him or his family from pro-Russian circles. The week before, the AfD board asked him to make a written statement, in which he wrote, among other things, that the whole thing was a “globalist campaign” by, among other things, who else? – “NGO Soros”.

Reactions from the federal executive board ranged from cold “recognition” to assertion that there was “zero point” to the allegations. A waiver of his appearance or a request not to accept his mandate, which was discussed last week, is apparently not on the table: “At this time, the Federal Executive Committee must assume that Mr. Bystron is innocent,” he says. There are probably as few consequences for Bystron as there were after his secret trip to Putin ally Belarus in 2023.

Bystron's dubious travels are not an isolated case: immediately after entering the Bundestag in 2017, he visited the racist paramilitary group “Suidlanders” in South Africa and participated in shooting training. He then praised the “gnarled guys with wide hands and serious looks,” which again sounds like a Clint Eastwood caricature.