AfD politicians from Saxony-Anhalt and North Rhine-Westphalia travel to Russia and also want to go to eastern Ukraine. According to the AfD-Spitze, they knew nothing about it and distanced themselves. Other parties expressed sharp criticism. Now the travelers are canceling their trip.

A trip by three AfD politicians to Russia with a planned visit to occupied eastern Ukraine has sparked sharp criticism from representatives of other parties. They accused the AfD of siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There was also a shake of the head within the AfD. According to the party leadership, it was not informed about the trip and distanced itself from it. “We do not support this trip,” said co-party and faction leader Tino Chrupalla on Tuesday in Berlin. He and co-chair Alice Weidel would have known nothing about this trip. “That completely missed our radar.”

Weidel spoke of a “private trip” that had not been agreed with the parliamentary group and party. “The travel activity does not represent the position of the AfD either.” This will be worked on internally.

On Tuesday, the story took a new turn: the travelers apparently canceled their trip. One of the three men, Christian Blex, member of the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament, said that they “are no longer traveling to the Donbass”.

The AfD federal board had already dealt with the topic on Monday evening and made a decision. The three participants were asked to disclose the organization of the trip, said Chrupalla. In the board resolution, the politicians are also asked to “coordinate any communication relating to the trip with the federal board in advance”.

In addition to Blex, the participants were the state parliamentarians Hans-Thomas Tillschneider and Daniel Wald from Saxony-Anhalt. Nationwide rather unknown representatives of the AfD.

The AfD parliamentary group in Saxony-Anhalt confirmed the participation of Tillschneider and Wald on Monday. According to a report by “Welt” (Wednesday), she took over the flight costs for her MPs. They were paid out as travel expenses in accordance with the Saxony-Anhalt Members’ Act by the AfD parliamentary group, as parliamentary group leader Oliver Kirchner confirmed at the request of the German Press Agency.

Blex wrote on Facebook that he had left for the Russian Federation with his party friends Tillschneider and Wald. “On this trip we will get our own undistorted picture of the situation in the Donbass.” He accused the “German pro-government media” of reporting “highly one-sidedly and incompletely” on the humanitarian situation of the people in the Donbass region.

Blex’ group had not previously been informed about the trip, said a spokeswoman for the German Press Agency in Düsseldorf. At its meeting on Tuesday, the parliamentary group unanimously disapproved of the trip and demanded that the financing be disclosed.

“We (…) have Dr. Christian Blex asked to cancel the trip immediately and return,” said a decision by the parliamentary group. “He is forbidden from appearing as a representative of the AfD parliamentary group in North Rhine-Westphalia during his travel activities. The parliamentary group will decide on any disciplinary consequences after a status check.”

The AfD parliamentary group also shook their heads about the action on Tuesday. With a view to the upcoming state elections in Lower Saxony, there was also talk of a “Gau” behind closed doors. MP Joana Cotar said: “The trip to the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine is unacceptable and politically wrong. I expect a tough crackdown from the national board.”

The outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, accused the AfD politicians on Twitter of supporting the Russian “war of annihilation” with the planned visit to the Russian-occupied areas in eastern Ukraine.

The head of the NRW state parliamentary group of the FDP, Henning Höne, expressed shock. “For me, such an action is equivalent to treason,” he said in Düsseldorf. According to the FDP politician, a trip to areas in eastern Ukraine occupied by Russia “cannot be realized without contacts with the Russian secret service”. At the same time, his group is already examining legal steps.

Bundestag politicians from other parties sharply attacked the AfD. “All of this shows which side the AfD is on – on Putin’s side,” said Katja Mast, the first parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group. “Such trips are exploited by Putin’s propaganda machine and massively damage Germany’s reputation and interests. Damaging Germany is the aim of the AfD. That was, is and will remain so.”

“If proof was needed at all, whose side was it on