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Bundestag Speaker Warns Of 'Great' Danger Of Outside Meddling In German Elections


German Parliament Speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble (file photo)

The speaker of the German parliament, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has expressed concern over the threat of foreign actors trying to influence elections to the Bundestag, scheduled for late September.

"The danger is relatively great," Schaeuble, a former interior minister, told dpa.

"We know what can be done with fake news. And we know from the experience of past elections in other countries that a real propaganda war is being waged here."

Berlin and German intelligence officials have recently accused Moscow of levels of secret interference in German affairs last seen during the Cold War, including at least one assassination, cyberattacks, and disinformation and lobbying.

Schaeuble said it is not always clear where attacks are emanating from but he cited "the usual suspects," who he also said will "always reject the accusations -- even if there are always relatively clear leads."

He said Russia's state-run international TV broadcaster RT, for example, was "quite obviously not a channel that even comes close to the principles of media freedom."

Schaeuble added: "To that extent, the state of press freedom in countries like Russia or Turkey also has an impact on voters in Germany."

Experts cited Russian online meddling ahead of German federal elections in 2017 but many said it never reached the levels they had feared.

Schaeuble said counteracting such digital efforts was "not very easy" but that officials should raise awareness of the dangers of such public manipulation.

He also said "liberal democracy is not defenseless either," adding that "we have to keep communication [our desire for better cooperation with Russia] to those responsible there, including the president."

Based on reporting by dpa
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