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8 Feb, 2024 15:58

‘I’m an agent of peace’ – MEP accused of spying

A Latvian lawmaker has denied reports that she met with Russian intelligence “handlers”
‘I’m an agent of peace’ – MEP accused of spying

Latvian MEP Tatjana Zdanoka has denied working for Russian intelligence, telling the European Parliament that she is “an agent for Europe without fascism.” Zdanoka is currently being investigated by the legislature for her supposed ties to Moscow.

The European Parliament opened an investigation into Zdanoka on Monday, after The Insider – an anti-Kremlin news outlet based in Latvia – claimed that the 73-year-old had reported to two Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) “handlers” for decades.

Zdanoka denied the allegations, stating on her Facebook page that she had “never been associated with the KGB [the FSB’s predecessor], unlike many well-known Latvian figures, and I have not cooperated with any other intelligence agencies.”

Speaking in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Zdanoka remained defiant. “Yes I am an agent, an agent for peace, an agent for Europe without fascism, an agent for minority rights, an agent for a united Europe from Lisbon to the Urals,” she told her fellow MEPs.

“And I want to apologize here and now before the people for not being a successful agent,” she continued, referring to the dire state of Russia-EU relations.

Zdanoka, who is of Russian heritage, is a longtime advocate for friendly relations with Moscow. She participated as an observer in the 2014 referendum that saw Crimea vote to join the Russian Federation, spoke out against Riga’s restrictions on the Russian language, and was one of 13 MEPs who voted against a resolution condemning Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and demanding sanctions on Moscow.

In 2014, Zdanoka unsuccessfully lobbied the European Council to recognize Right Sector – a Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia – as a terrorist organization. In response, the Ukrainian Congress of Latvia called on the country’s Justice Ministry to classify her party’s activities as unconstitutional. 

Latvia’s parliament passed a law in 2022 forbidding “pro-Kremlin-oriented persons and political organizations” from seeking office. As such, Zdanoka has been barred from participating in this summer’s European elections. 

No matter the outcome of the investigation, the European Parliament cannot force Zdanoka to resign or stop her from voting. If she is found to have breached the legislature’s code of conduct, the parliament can only suspend her daily financial allowances for two months.

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