Slovakia gives protection to man accused of running pro-Russian influence campaign, media say

FILE PHOTO: European Union leaders summit in Brussels

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia has given temporary protection to a Ukrainian and Israeli citizen who is accused of running a pro-Russian influence campaign via a news website and is under Czech sanctions, Czech media reported.

Czech newspaper Denik N cited two unnamed sources as saying Slovakia's interior ministry had granted Artem Marchevskyi temporary protection status.

Marchevskyi was placed on a Czech sanctions list in March after Czech intelligence services said he ran the Czech-registered Voice of Europe website. Prague said he had used the website to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda and disinformation under instruction from pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

Reuters was unable immediately to confirm the Denik N report, or Marchevskyi's status. Marchevskyi could not be reached for comment.

Slovakia's interior Ministry said in a statement that it had been dealing with the case along with intelligence services, but declined further comment. It said it would provide more details after completing its investigation.

Denik N, in its report published on Tuesday evening, said that after Prague imposed sanctions on Marchevskyi, he had headed to Slovakia, where a new government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico has been warmer to Moscow than its predecessor and has ended state military support for Ukraine.

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Marchevskyi was granted temporary protection in the Czech Republic as part of European Union efforts to help people fleeing the fighting.

Czech officials expected him to lose that status 60 days after his inclusion on the sanctions list, depriving him of EU residency.

Fico's position on Russia has caused unease among some of Slovakia's EU allies, especially in central Europe, where the Czech Republic and Poland have been staunch supporters of Ukraine during the war.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet, Editing by Timothy Heritage)