Sunday

26th May 2019

Outrage over EP job for daughter of Putin spokesman

  • Elisaveta Peskova has also posed with Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov and in Russian-occupied Crimea (Photo: instagram.com)

The daughter of Russian president Vladimir Putin's spokesman has been hired as an intern by a French MEP, in a move attacked as bad taste by some and a security risk by others.

Elisaveta Peskova, the 21-year old daughter of Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, took up her post in the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels in November on a contract with French MEP Aymeric Chauprade that is due to end in April.

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  • 'For me, she is only a student in France and a good trainee,' Aymeric Chauprade said (Photo: European Parliament)

She is being paid €1,000 a month, as well as expenses for her monthly trips to the EP's other building in Strasbourg, which normally amount to another €700 or so.

Peskova is better known to her 79,000 followers on Instagram for posing in designer clothes in Paris or Moscow.

But she has also posted pictures of herself eating and dancing with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who stands accused of human rights abuses.

She posted images of herself with shipyard workers in Russia-occupied Crimea, where she briefly worked as a PR consultant.

And she posed for a photo among the 'yellow vest' protests in the French capital, which she described as "a kind of bacchanal ... in the main street of Western Europe ... cool".

EUobserver telephoned her on Monday (25 February), but the call was answered by a woman who called herself Peskova's "PR manager" and who said: "I can only confirm that Ms Peskova works as a trainee in the EP for four months".

For his part, Aymeric Chauprade, the pro-Russian and eurosceptic French MEP who hired her, defended his actions in a statement sent to media after the RFE/RFL news agency published a story about her the same day.

"Ms Peskova is certainly the daughter of an important personality in the Russian Federation, but as a student, she does not have fewer rights than other young people to do an internship ... I make the difference between a person and his family. These are our Western values," he said.

"All you hear from its [the EP's] Europhile members is ... conspiratorial Russophobia," he added.

Peskova has in the past been vilified on social media over accusations of living off her father's alleged corruption and nepotism.

The news that she worked in the EP also attracted opprobrium.

"I can name many smart young European citizens, especially from countries once subjugated by the USSR and still suffering from the aftereffects and whose daddies don't wear €600,000 watches, who are far more deserving of a European Parliament internship," Toomas Ilves, the former president of Estonia, said on Twitter.

"You can openly support a terrorist regime murdering gays and you can still get a job in the European Parliament," Jakub Kalensky, a former EU diplomat who now works at the Atlantic Council, a US think tank, said, referring to Kadyrov, whose Chechen regime stands accused of homophobic purges.

The irony of the fact that Peskova's father, and the Kremlin more broadly speaking, were waging a propaganda war against the EU while financing luxurious lifestyles for their relatives in Europe was also highlighted by Sandra Kalniete, a centre-right Latvian MEP.

"Mr Peskov has been the public face of this regime for many years. If someone thinks that his daughter is loyal to the ideas of a united and strong European Union, then he's bitterly wrong," she told EUobserver.

Peskova's traineeship was a "very big shame on the face of the European Parliament," Petras Austrevicius, a Lithuanian liberal MEP, told RFE/RFL.

Security risk?

Peskova also posed a security risk to the EP because she had "access [to] almost all premises, all meetings, and databases" Kalniete and Austrevicius noted.

"I have approached the secretary general of the EPP group to raise the issue of security risks and the people we're giving access to," Kalniete said, referring to her own political group, the conservative European People's Party (EPP).

Chauprade, the French MEP who hired Peskova, works on the foreign affairs committee, a subcommittee on security and defence, and on the EU-Russia parliamentary delegation.

He is avowedly pro-Russian and travelled to Crimea in 2014 to endorse a bogus referendum there.

He used to be a senior member of the pro-Russian and far-right French party, the National Rally.

But he now works as a vice-president of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the EP, which is led by British eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage.

The EP said in a statement that "assistants and trainees to MEPs do not have access to confidential documents".

"In fact, Mr Chauprade himself has never had access to confidential documents," it added.

No 'panic' needed

A spokesman for the British ruling Conservative party also downplayed the security fears in a comment to British newspaper the Daily Telegraph on Monday.

"In reality, insiders who look and behave like everyone else are likely to pose a much bigger risk than Russian socialites who make no secret of their family connections," he said.

Knut Fleckenstein, a German centre-left MEP who works alongside Chauprade on the foreign affairs committee, said the same.

"Maybe the parliament has to lay down the 'rules of play' more clearly. However, I see no reason to panic," he told this website.

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