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EU imposes sanctions on Voice of Europe, businessmen over Russian ‘disinformation’ – Times of India

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PRAGUE: The European Union has imposed sanctions on the news website Voice of Europe and two businessmen connected to it, officials said on Monday, extending penalties imposed by the Czech Republic which says the outlet spreads Russian propaganda.

The EU wide actions would hit the men, Viktor Medvedchuk and Artem Marchevskyi and the Prague-based company that runs the website with asset freezes and travel bans, the Czech Foreign Ministry and the Council of the European Union said.

Voice of Europe which says on its website it “covers news and politics from Europe and beyond”, dismissed the action and called it an EU attack on free speech.

The Czech Republic said in March that the website was financed by Medvedchuk, a pro-Kremlin businessman and former Ukrainian lawmaker who was sent to exile in Russia in 2022 in exchange for Ukrainian prisoners of war. He was stripped of Ukrainian citizenship.

The Czech ministry has said Ukrainian and Israeli citizen Artem Marchevskyi led Voice of Europe under Medvedchuk’s instructions.

“Viktor Volodymyrovych Medvedchuk uses the Voice of Europe media platform to run a Russian influence operation,” the Czech ministry said on Monday. “The aim of this operation is to undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and freedom of Ukraine.”

In March, The Czech Republic imposed its own sanctions on the Prague-based company which runs the news website, which it said was being used to spread Russian influence ahead of June’s EU parliamentary election, including by offering financial support to European politicians.

The Council of the EU said the Voice of Europe and its social media accounts actively spread disinformation on Ukraine and promoted “pro-Kremlin false narratives”.

Voice of Europe said in an unsigned article on its website “categorically rejected” the EU action.

“Voice of Europe is going to be blocked due to pressure from European authorities on freedom of speech and attempts to hide the truth about the real situation in Europe,” it added.

Czech media have reported Marchevskyi has been given temporary protection, a status given to refugees from Ukraine in Slovakia.

A spokesman for the Slovak interior ministry said the authorities decided on refugee protection based on the information from the police and security services but could not comment on Marchevskyi’s case.

Petr Bystron, a member of the German parliament and a candidate in the European Parliament elections for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has “vehemently denied” allegations in media, citing Czech intelligence recordings, that he took money from Voice of Europe.

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