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Exclusive: German prosecutors, prompted by Reuters report, search home of pro-Kremlin activists


German prosecutors said on Monday they searched the home of two pro-Kremlin activists, looking for evidence to corroborate a Reuters report that the couple donated cash to buy radios for Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Reuters reported in January that Max Schlund and his romantic partner Elena Kolbasnikova donated funds collected from supporters in Germany to a Russian army division fighting in Ukraine, and the money was used to purchase walkie-talkie radios, headphones and telephones.

European Union sanctions ban supplying, or financing the purchase of certain goods for the Russian military. The banned list includes radio gear. Under German law, the criminal penalty for anyone found to have violated sanctions is up to five years in prison.

Ulf Willuhn, a representative of the Cologne public prosecutors, said officers executed a search warrant on Monday morning at the couple’s address, and took computers and folders containing written documents.

Kolbasnikova and Schlund did not immediately respond to requests for comment that Reuters sent to them on messaging apps. Kolbasnikova previously described the original Reuters report as “lies and provocation”.

Willuhn said they would use the evidence they took to evaluate if Schlund and Kolbasnikova had violated paragraph 18 of the German foreign trade and payments act, which sets out punishments for breaches of international sanctions.

He said the search was triggered in part by the Reuters reporting on the donation to buy gear for the Russian army division in Ukraine.

Alongside that, he said prosecutors had also been looking for evidence of whether the couple violated section 140 of the German criminal code, which covers speaking approvingly of criminal acts.

That line of inquiry relates to allegations, reported in the German media, that the couple displayed the “Z” symbol, used by supporters of the Russian invasion, and re-posted a recruitment ad for pro-Kremlin military contractors.

In an audio message sent to supporters on social media on Monday, Kolbasnikova said she was not surprised the search had happened because the German authorities were “committing lawlessness” to try to silence political opponents.

“We will keep fighting … God is on our side, and Moscow is at our backs. Three cheers for victory!” she said.

Kolbasnikova called on her supporters to attend a previously scheduled rally in Cologne on March 29 to protest in support of free speech and against what she described as “Russophobia”.

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, said this month that Kolbasnikova was the victim of persecution by the German authorities.

Related Galleries:

Elena Kolbasnikova and Max Schlund, originally called Rostislav Teslyuk, organisers of pro-Russia rallies, stand on stage at a rally in Cologne, Germany, December 4, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

Max Schlund, originally called Rostislav Teslyuk, an organiser of pro-Russia rallies and former Russian air force officer, attends a rally in Cologne, Germany, December 4, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

Elena Kolbasnikova, an organiser and leader of pro-Russia rallies, and originally from Ukraine, speaks on stage at a rally in Cologne, Germany, December 4, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer
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