A conventional training or attempt to get closer to the EU elites? A 21-year-old daughter of Vladimir Putin’s press secretary is gaining work experience in the European Parliament. The news caused a wave of emotion in Brussels. Does trainee Yelizaveta Peskova, who studies International Relations in one of the French universities, pose a threat to Europe?
“The case is a usual student and a usual internship. I would not like to make more comments, it is all about my daughter, not my duties or work,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Vladimir Putin might well be making bold statements about Russia’s ability to launch nuclear strikes on ‘decision-making centres in the West’, but the daughter of his close associate opts for joining the team of French MEP Aymeric Chauprade, a representative of the right-wing Eurosceptic group .
“First of all, it shows that the Russian elite is very interested in what is happening in the European Parliament, how this institution works. Which deputy the daughter of Putin’s official is working for is also of no small importance,” Agnieszka Smoleńska, an expert at the European Institute in Florence, stressed.
Chauprade is a member of both the EP’s foreign affairs committee and the subcommittee on security and defense. He was elected to the European Parliament from the National Front; he quit the party due to ‘moral and ideological issues’, including some party fellows’ anti-Semitism .
Aymeric Chauprade publicly supported Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Being one of international observers, he justified the Moscow-staged referendum. Now he is actively lobbying against the anti-Kremlin sanctions. Commenting on the situation, he denied any deal with Russia.
“There is no conflict of interest, there is no problem of security, so it’s only to make some scandal, and it comes from a few deputies, members of the European Parliament. We are quite Russophobic, there is Russophobia in the European Parliament and it’s a pity,” he told Associated Press.
The Russian top official’s relative will have unhindered access to European institurions’ papers, journalists warn. However, there is no breach of security regulations, the EP states.
“Interns and assistants have access only to public documents and discussions. This is parliament; most of its documents are publicly available by definition,” EP press secretary Delphine Colard stressed.
There might not be a security breach, but violation of moral norms is present, a number of MEPs believe. According to them, Peskova’s internship is a provocation, if not an attempt to get closer to top politicians.
“This is a shameful situation, it has been carefully planned and implemented by the Kremlin and the individual radicals from the European Parliament. Fortunately, Mr Chauprade does not make decisions in the EP, he is marginalized. But I will demand the cancellation of a permit for [Peskova’s] internship,” Lithuanian MEP Petras Auštrevičius told Belsat TV.
In turn, Aymeric Chauprade is set to seek punishment for ‘Russophobic’ MEPs:
“Ms Peskova is not working on Russian issues […] She worked on elections in Senegal last week. […] We do not recruit interns on a competitive basis. MEPs make a selection on the basis of CVs. […] Despite the fact that I work in the EU-Russia delegation, there is no conflict of interest, because sessions took place behind closed doors, and trainees have no access to them,” he said when reached by Belsat.
Interestingly, the MEP’s assistant Peskova speaks with the public only through her own press secretary. She promised to answer our questions in April, after the completion of her internship.
Alyaksandr Papko/MS, belsat.eu