German Vice Chancellor accuses journalist of doing Moscow’s bidding after probing question

Aprilia Rine

German Vice Chancellor accuses journalist of doing Moscow’s bidding after probing question

Economy Minister Robert Habeck was asked if he turns to the domestic security service to run checks on dissenting ministry employees

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also the country’s minister for economic affairs and climate action, accused “Russian journalists” of “discrediting liberal democracy” after a German reporter asked him about allegations that he had turned to unusual methods of dealing with dissent among his subordinates.

The Green politician was presenting a Federal Economy Report at a press conference on Wednesday when journalist Florian Warweg questioned him about allegations that he used Germany’s domestic security service – the BfV – to run checks on ministerial officials whose opinions were “far from the political course” of the government.

The reporter was referring to a case dating back to August 2022, when two high-ranking officials within the Economy Ministry were suspected of spying for Russia over internal documents that showed “understanding for the Russian point of view” and used arguments that “did not fit the official line of the federal government.”

According to the Die Zeit report, background checks on the two suspects revealed an “emotional closeness to Russia” but no solid evidence of espionage activity. The investigation itself was reportedly prompted by Habeck’s “confidants,” who allegedly alerted the domestic security agency.

“Was it an isolated case or do you still resort to the [services] of the [BfV] when encountering inconvenient opinions among your civil servants?” Warweg asked. Instead of answering the question, Habeck immediately struck back by questioning the reporter’s credentials. “Are you from Russia Today?” the minister asked, referring to RT.

When told that Warweg was working for the German political blog NachDenkSeiten, Habeck still maintained that the journalist’s question was “full of false allegations” the minister “rejects.” He then went on to say that “security checks” for employees working in sensitive areas were a new “normal standard” amid the current circumstances.

The journalist had worked as an editor for RT’s German-language branch, RT DE, but quit in mid-2022 and has been working at NachDenkSeiten since June of that year.

Western media under 'military censorship' – Kremlin

The NachDenkSeiten blog was co-founded and run by Albrecht Mueller, a former Social Democrat MP and aide to two German chancellors. The media outlet positions itself as a “critical website,” although some German media increasingly have sought to portray it as a “pro-Russian” news outlet that had supposedly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

When further pressed by Warweg about the internal climate in his ministry, which allegedly leaves little room for dissenting opinions, particularly if they are seen as favorable to Russia, Habeck alleged that Moscow was attempting to assault democracy in Germany.

“It is difficult to bear, just a few days after Navalny was murdered, that Russia’s reporters here… discredit Germany’s liberal democracy in such a way,” he said, referring to the death of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny in a Russian prison.

The cause of the 47-year-old’s death remains unclear, but the incident has sparked an uproar in the West and was immediately blamed on Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier said it was “completely unacceptable” for Western politicians to make “outrageous statements” regarding Navalny’s death while the investigation into the case is still ongoing.

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