In February 2017, a delegation of three AfD politicians flew to Moscow in a private jet paid for by the Russian government, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported on Monday.
Two of the participants – MEP Marcus Pretzell and senior member Julian Flak – confirmed that Russia paid for the private jet, with the cost estimated at €25,000.
The third participant, former party head Frauke Petry, has not commented. Petry and Pretzell, who are husband and wife, have since left the AfD.
According to FAZ, it is the first confirmed instance of Russia making a large payment on behalf of the far-right party.
The case could have legal consequences for Pretzell and Petry, who at the time were members of the European and Saxony parliaments, respectively. Politicians are supposed to register any donors with the parliaments that they sit in, which neither Pretzell nor Petry did. Furthermore politicians are not allowed to take donations from abroad.
Pretzell has said that the trio did not travel to Moscow as representatives of the AfD.
The revelations were met with criticism from opposing politicians as well as from within the AfD.
Norbert Röttgen, head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told FAZ the fact that Russia chartered the flight for €25,000 showed that Moscow saw Petry as “someone worth supporting.”
“This is the first time that a link between the AfD and Russia has been proven. This is both dire and shocking and proves that the AfD is Putin’s long arm in the German parliament,” said Green party MP Omid Nouripour.
The AfD's current leader Alexander Gauland claimed that he knew nothing about the donation.
“The financial incentive which Petry, Pretzell and Flak evidently received was not registered with the party board. We will try and clear this up as quickly as we can,” he said.