Belgium deported 'dozens of Russian spies' in recent months, De Croo says

Belgium deported 'dozens of Russian spies' in recent months, De Croo says
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD). Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Belgium has expelled "dozens of so-called Russian diplomats" who were "clearly spies" from the country in recent months, said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) over the weekend.

When asked by French-language channel RTL whether Belgium has to fear Russian attempts to destabilise the democracy, De Croo replied that these attempts have already been happening.

"Belgium has deported dozens of so-called Russian diplomats from the country in recent months," he said. "Were they spies? Clearly, yes."

According to De Croo, Russia is also attacking Belgium in other ways. "If we take a stand against Russia, we know that very often our websites become targets of cyber attacks in the following hours."

Russia has conducted numerous disinformation campaigns in Belgium as well. "For example, when the manhunt for Jürgen Conings [the former career soldier who made threats against virologists and the Belgian Government during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021] was happening, our security services had suspicions about organised disinformation campaigns at delicate moments."

Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

In April 2023, a survey carried out by De Tijd and its European partners found that nowhere else in Europe does Russia have as much satellite communication equipment, used for relaying sensitive information back to Russia, as on the buildings of its embassy in Belgium.

On the roof of its embassy building in Uccle, there are no fewer than 17 satellite dishes, as well as several other antennas and communications equipment which can be used for both communication and espionage.

De Croo also elaborated on the financing of Belgian aid to Ukraine. "It is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who pays. Belgium has in fact found a clever solution: Russia has hundreds of billions in assets frozen in Belgium, and the aid in Ukraine is paid with the taxes on that money. So the aid is not financed by Belgian taxpayers."

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