Revealed: Russian Legal Foundation Pravfond Linked to Kremlin Activities in Europe

Revealed: Russian Legal Foundation Pravfond Linked to Kremlin Activities in Europe

Leaked internal documents have exposed the activities of a Russian state-backed legal defence foundation Pravfond that European intelligence agencies and analysts say is a Kremlin influence operation active in 48 countries across Europe and beyond.

The Fund for Support and Protection of the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad (Pravfond) finances propaganda websites targeted at Europeans, supports the legal defence of convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout and assassin Vadim Krasikov, and employs former intelligence officers as directors of its European operations.
The documents reveal that the foundation has spent millions of euros on propaganda and legal campaigns.

Public data shows that Pravfond’s local partners have received millions in state subsidies from several European countries where the foundation operates, raising questions about the use of public funds and national security just days before European Parliament elections.

Over 40 Pravfond documents, obtained by Danish public broadcaster DR from a European intelligence source and shared with a consortium of European journalists, including the Guardian, reveal that the organisation’s leadership includes documented former intelligence agents. Among them are Vladimir Pozdorovkin, identified by European intelligence sources as an agent for Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR), and Anatoly Sorokin, an SVR member curating Pravfond’s Middle East, Moldova, and Transnistria division.

Sergey Panteleyev, head of the Institute of the Russian Diaspora, listed as Pravfond’s “project implementer”, has been sanctioned in the EU for his role in a Russian military intelligence unit specialising in psychological-warfare operations.

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russian intelligence services, described Pravfond as a “classic soft-power effort” with well-documented ties between intelligence and compatriot organisations.

He noted that Andrey Milyutin, a senior official in Russia’s FSB, was part of the government’s committee on “compatriots living abroad”, indicating links between intelligence activity and diaspora outreach.

In a 2020 national security report, the Estonian security services labelled Pravfond a “pseudo legal protection system” that is “in reality an influence operations fund”, alleging that the FSB uses such groups to recruit collaborators abroad, including among supporters of Crimea’s 2014 annexation.

Founded in 2012 by presidential decree, Pravfond is backed by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the federal agency Rossotrudnichestvo, which administers foreign aid. Alexander Udaltsov, head of Pravfond, has described it as a “unique element of Russian soft power”. Udaltsov has been sanctioned by the EU since 2023 for actions undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Pravfond did not respond to questions from the Guardian and its reporting partners, though some recipients of its local grants did. Documents show Pravfond sponsored the legal defence of Krasikov, an alleged FSB agent sentenced to life for the murder of Chechen commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin in 2019.

Lawyer Robert Unger received €60,000 from Pravfond’s budget for Krasikov’s defence in 2021, with additional undocumented sums suggested by European intelligence sources. Unger confirmed his mandate for Krasikov ended in 2021 and cited legal professional confidentiality as preventing further comment.

A 2014 Pravfond budget document indicated significant funding for the legal defences of Bout and convicted drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko, both of whom later returned to Russia through prisoner exchanges with the US.

Documents also showed Pravfond spent hundreds of thousands of euros on websites fighting “Russophobia” and promoting “defence of the Russian language” in Europe, and funded fringe publications across the continent.

Pravfond supported, an online portal criticising the Ukrainian government. Golos deputy editor Yuri Andriychenko denied any links to Pravfond, suggesting misuse of the site’s name for grant funding applications.

Pravfond also funds Euromore, an online portal focusing on perceived threats to Russians in Europe. Notably, Latvian MEP Tatjana Ždanoka, who has faced espionage accusations in the European Parliament for alleged Kremlin ties, maintains a blog on the site. Euromore was established to counter the closure of RT and Sputnik by EU authorities and to create an alternative platform following the Kremlin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Read also:

From Brussels to Moscow: New Evidence Uncovers Latvian MEP Tatjana Ždanoka’s Espionage in the European Parliament

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