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Russia used Serbian agent to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda on Ukraine in Brussels, report claims

Novica Antić, who is accused of being an 'agent of influence' of Russian intelligence
Novica Antić, who is accused of being an 'agent of influence' of Russian intelligence

Russia used a Serbian agent to infiltrate the European Parliament and spread propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine, it has been claimed.

Novica Antić held meetings with MEPs in October 2023, according to a Western intelligence briefing, the Politico website reported, adding that the briefing identified him as an active “agent of influence” for Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB.

“They took every opportunity to promote Russian propaganda relating to the war in Ukraine,” the briefing said, referring to meetings in Serbia and EU countries.

Serbia is one of the Western Balkan countries hoping to one day join the EU. However, it has not joined EU sanctions against the Kremlin for the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Call to counter Russian influence in Balkans

It is believed that Russia is deploying influence operations to weaken pro-EU sentiment in the country.

Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, called on Monday for faster enlargement of the EU to counter Russian influence in the region.

Mr Antić met MEPs including Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, of the German Greens, Alessandra Moretti, of the Italian Socialists & Democrats, and Vladimír Bilčík, a Slovakian member of the conservative European People’s Party Group.

Politico reported there was nothing in the intelligence briefing to suggest the MEPs knew of the alleged FSB links.

Vladimir Bilčik speaking in the European Parliament
Vladimir Bilčik was one of the MEPs who met Mr Antić, and who the intelligence briefing did not suggest knew anything of his alleged FSB links - THIERRY MONASSE/GETTY IMAGES
Alessandra Moretti
Alessandra Moretti, an Italian MEP, was also among the parliamentarians who met Mr Antić - FRANCO ORIGLIA/GETTY IMAGES

Mr Antić, who is chairman of the Serbian Military Trade Union, also held meetings with representatives of the EUROMIL and EPSU trade unions in Brussels.

He reportedly works closely with an alleged FSB associate named Vyacheslav Kalinin, a Russian national and editor-in-chief of Veteran News, a media website with links to the Russian Ministry of Defence.

An EPSU official told Politico, “A delegation of his union was in Brussels in October, where they met with several MEPs and they were all transparent. The only topic was trade union rights.”

Alleged agent on hunger strike in Serbia

Mr Antić did not respond to Politico’s request for comment. A fierce critic of Aleksandar Vučić, the Serbian president, he is currently being detained on unspecified charges in Serbia, and has reportedly gone on hunger strike.

The European Parliament does not have any direct say on EU foreign policy, which is led by the bloc’s member states, but it can pass non-binding resolutions and write reports.

Mr Antić’s access to the EU institution, which sits in Brussels and Strasbourg, comes amid fears the parliament is vulnerable to state-backed infiltration.

Spyware was recently found on the smartphones of two MEPs, including the chairman of the defence committee.

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