Markus Frohnmaier is a politician of the far-right Alternative for Germany party and an MP in the German Bundestag. He is the federal spokesman of AfD’s youth wing, the Young Alternative (Junge Alternative, YA), the spokesman of AfD co-leader Alice Weidel, and amongst those AfD politicians with the most extensive Russian contacts.1
Frohnmaier, party-internally also called ‘Frontmaier’,2 has repeatedly appeared in the Russian press: around a dozen times on both Sputnik Germany and Sputnik International, and a little less frequent on RT Germany and RT International,3 advocating Russia's stance on issues such as the annexation of Crimea4 or NATO's mandate in the Near East.5 Frohnmaier has been a contributor to Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev's think tank Katehon.6 His latest article appeared in March 2019. Putin’s confidant, the oligarch Vladimir Yakunin, received him in Paris, and Frohmaier even appeared among pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine as part of a panel discussion.7
Frohnmaier had been an integral part in the establishment of the AfD's youth group, Young Alternative, since its foundation in 2014. It had grown out of an AfD-affine student group that Frohnmaier had founded and chaired for several years.8 The Young Alternative is currently under surveillance by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) because of its reported closeness to other far-right organizations already under active surveillance. To avoid surveillance, the AfD decided instead in September 2018 to dissolve two sections of the Young Alternative in Bremen and Lower Saxony. Boris Pistorius, Lower Saxony's interior minister pointed at the closeness of the YA to the Identitarian Movement, consisting in a "not insignificant ideological and personal overlap",9 while the "structural proximity of the Lower Saxony YA section to organised right-wing extremism was unmistakable."10 Frohnmaier himself seems well acquainted with the Identitarian and far-right extremist milieu. He reportedly met Austrian Identitarian leader Martin Sellner.1
In spring 2016, Frohnmaier, then-federal chairman of the AfD youth group Young Alternative, appeared as one of the co-founders of the German Center for Eurasian Studies11 (Deutsches Zentrum für Eurasische Studien), along "far-right journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter, the Thuringian AfD MP Thomas Rudy, and the Polish neo-Eurasianist publicist Mateusz Piskorski."10 The centre was mainly organizing sham electoral observation missions. In May 2016, Piskorski was detained on the base of suspected espionage.12
In his central capacity as the AfD's youth movement leader, Frohnmaier started to be in contact with Russian youth groups at the latest in 2016. In April of that year he had reportedly met Robert Shlegel, Duma deputy as well as high-up functionary of the United Russia party, in order to "explore what form of cooperation could be possible" with United Russia’s youth organisation, the Young Guard (Molodaia Gvardiia). These discussions were continued in December 2016, when Frohnmaier met with the international secretary of the Young Guard, Daria Sharova, in Moscow.13
In July 2016, the YA invited several far-right parties, such as the French Front National and the FPÖ, to its federal party congregation in Bingen, Germany. Among the Russian delegates were the president of the United Youth Front,14 the building magnate Nikolai Shliamin, together with his wife, Ksenia Shliamina, who held a speech, where he called for a Eurasian coalition "from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.15 During the Germany trip, Shliamina wrote in a Facebook post that they had agreed on a collaboration with Frohnmaier in the framework of the project Ia Papa!, an initiative for young fathers.16
In December 2016, Frohnmaier met with Konstantin Petrichenko, director of international relations of the United Russia party, as well as leaders from the United Youth Front.17 While in Moscow, Frohnmaier also had a meeting with Anton Morozov, a Russian MP and member of its international affairs committee, organized by the UYF. According to Ksenia Shliamina, who posted photos of the meeting on Facebook, they discussed "prospects for cooperation between Russia and Germany in the context of sanctions."18
During the 2016 iteration of the Yalta International Economic Forum in Crimea, Frohnmaier had met his future wife, Daria, a Russian journalist writing for the governmental newspaper Izvestiia.2 A photo shot during the trip shows him with then still AfD politician Markus Pretzell, who in the meantime founded with his wife Frauke Petry a new party, Die Blaue Partei ("The Blue Party").
On January 24, 2017 Frohnmaier can be seen on a photo together with the Belgian Russophile neo-Nazi Kris Roman in a restaurant.19 Frohnmaier sits between the Russians, Valentina Bobrova20 and Mikhail Ochkin,21 which appear in the orbit of a neo-Chetnik formation.19 As can be seen on the picture below, they appeared together with Maksim Markov, who is wearing a t-shirt with the formation's skull logo.
The skull symbol seems to be derived from a military flag from the Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army, which formed during the war against the Turks in 1876-1878. It says: "With faith in God - freedom or death” ("С верой в Бога - свобода или смерть"). Chetnik detachments fought i.a. under Hitler and Mussolini in WWII.
In April 2017 Frohnmaier had met with Martin Sellner, leader of the Identitarian movement Austria.
In March 2018, Frohnmaier travelled to Moscow as an observer of the Russian presidential election from March 16-19, together with several other AfD politicians.
The election observation delegation by the AfD was invited by the Russian Peace Foundation ("Russische Friedensstiftung”), and included:
- AfD MP Waldemar Herdt, a Russian-German originally from Kazakhstan, who was bestowed a mandate by the International Convent of Russian Germans to represent their interest in the AfD22
- AfD MP Dietmar Friedhoff, full member of the Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development, deputy member of the Defense Committee in the German Bundestag, and member of the AfD since its inception
- AfD MP Dr. Robby Schlund; former military officer, and member of the AfD since its inception23
- AfD MP Markus Frohnmaier, chairman of the Young Alternative for Germany
- AfD MP Steffen Kotré, corporate consultant, and chairman of the so called Mittelstandsforum (Middle Class Forum) of the AfD in Berlin-Brandenburg24
- AfD MP Anton Friesen, a Russian-German born in Russia,25 and member of the AfD since its inception
One month later he attended again the Yalta International Economic Conference, to which he had already been invited in 2016.26 A photo shows him there together with Mateusz Piskorski, and Frohnmaier's alleged Russian liaison, a certain Sargis Mirzakhanian,27 according to a recent BBC documentary.28
In 2018, far-right Eurasianist and editor of the Zuerst! magazine Manuel Ochsenreiter took on a post as an official advisor to Frohnmaier in the German Bundestag.29
"In April 2019, a joint investigation conducted by the BBC, Der Spiegel, the German TV channel ZDF and the Italian La Repubblica concluded that one of the main AfD candidates, Markus Frohnmaier, had likely requested Russian funding for his 2017 Bundestag election campaign, and recommendations were sent to a high-level official to Kremlin, Sergei Sokolov by a former politician and naval counterintelligence officer to provide support for him as he could be “totally controlled” by the Kremlin."10
- 1. a. b. Maria Fiedler, “Frohnmaier trifft Sellner: Wie die AfD-Jugend mit den Identitären kungelt,” Der Tagesspiegel, April 22, 2017, https://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/reportage/frohnmaier-trifft-sellner-wie-die-afd-jugend-mit-den-identitaeren- kungelt/19702108.html.
- 2. a. b. Maik Großekathöfer, “AfD-Nachwuchs Frohnmaier: Ein junger Mann, der Populist werden will,” Spiegel Online, October 9, 2016, http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/afd-nachwuchs-markus-frohnmaier-a-1115685.html.
- 3. https://de.sputniknews.com/search/?query=%22Markus+Frohnmaier%22; https://sputniknews.com/search/?query=%22Markus+Frohnmaier%22; https://deutsch.rt.com/search?q=%22markus+frohnmaier%22&df=&dt=; https://www.rt.com/search?q=%22markus+frohnmaier%22&type.
- 4. “Markus Frohnmaier: ‘Krim kommt nicht mehr zurück, das muss man akzeptieren,’” YouTube video, 4:28, posted by “RT Deutsch,” April 20, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvJGFdPL9fU (accessed September 12, 2018).
- 5. “Markus Frohnmaier im RT Deutsch-Gespräch: Wir haben mit NATO-Mandat den Nahen Osten destabilisiert,” YouTube video, 5:54, posted by “RT Deutsch,” December 28, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agTK2a1_F5s (accessed November 13, 2018).
- 6. "Markus Frohnmaier," Katehon, http://katehon.com/person/markus-frohnmaier.
- 7. “Putins Freunde in Europe,” ZDF.de, http://webstory.zdf.de/putins-geheimes- netzwerk/putins-freunde-in-europa/.
- 8. Rafael Binkowski, “Wie Markus Frohnmaier Feuer gefangen hat,” Stuttgarter Zeitung, February 25, 2015, https://www.stuttgarter-zeitung.de/inhalt.aufstrebende-partei-wer-steckt-hinter-der-afd-page1.3df730c1-bfa2-4599-bd89- 86e66b5901b6.html.
- 9. 156 “Zwei AfD-Jugendorganisationen werden aufgelöst,” tagesschau.de, September 3, 2018, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/afd-verfassungsschutz-117.html.
- 10. a. b. c. Marlene Laruelle & Ellen Rivera, "Collusion or Homegrown Collaboration? Connections between German Far Right and Russia," Political Capital, April 2019, http://politicalcapital.hu/pc-admin/source/documents/Laruelle_Rivera_Collusion_or_Homegrown_Collaboration.pdf.
- 11. German Center for Eurasian Studies, http://germancenter.net/.
- 12. "Poland detains pro-Kremlin party leader for 'spying,'" The Guardian, May 19, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/19/poland-detains-pro-kremlin-party-leader-mateusz-piskorski-spying.
- 13. “Russia Seeks to Influence European Politics Through Youth Wings of Far-Right and Far-Left Parties,” Bellingcat, April 27, 2017, https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2017/04/27/russia-seeks-influence-european-politics-working- youth-wings-far-right-far-left-parties/.
- 14. United Youth Front, http://omf-russia.ru (formerly http://omfront.ru).
- 15. “Putins Freunde in Europa,” ZDF.de, http://webstory.zdf.de/putins-geheimes- netzwerk/putins-freunde-in-europa/.
- 16. Facebook post by Ksenia Shliamina, 25 June 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10209993017288722, Archived version at https://archive.is/EOWAu. Ia Papa (ЯПАПА), http://ipapa.pro/.
- 17. Facebook post by Ksenia Shliamina, December 25, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10211729934270561.
- 18. “Yesterday a joint meeting of the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), the YUF and the youth wing of the AFD took place. We talked with State Duma Deputy Anton Morozov, a member of the Committee on International Affairs, about the prospects for cooperation between Russia and Germany in the context of sanctions. Meeting organisers: United Youth Front.” Facebook post by Ksenia Shliamina, December 21, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10211692273289060.
- 19. a. b. Kris Roman, Facebook post, January 24, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10211911710765178&set=a.10211653401507608&type=3&theater.
- 20. Facebook page of Valentina Bobrova, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009340780226.
- 21. Facebook page of Mikhail Ochkin, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010331472970.
- 22. https://www.facebook.com/252430545222820/photos/a.252891975176677/382674882198385/?type=3&theater
- 23. http://robby-schlund.de/persoenlich/
- 24. https://www.facebook.com/pg/St.Kotre/about/?ref=page_internal
- 25. Anne Applebaum et al., "'Make Germany Great Again': Kremlin, Alt-Right and International Influences in the 2017 German Elections," Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Institute of Global Affairs, 2017, http://www.isdglobal.org/wp- content/uploads/2017/12/Make-Germany-Great-Again-ENG-061217.pdf. p. 16.
- 26. Facebook post by Robby Schlund, March 8, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/robby.schlund/posts/1650147811689191.
- 27. Facebook profile of Sargis Mirzakhanian, https://www.facebook.com/sgmir.
- 28. "Has Russia infiltrated the German Parliament? - BBC Newsnight," Youtube video, April 4, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=545&v=6IftmHLGM8w.
- 29. Danijel Majic, “AfD: Referent vom rechten Rand,” Frankfurter Rundschau, October 24, 2018, http://www.fr.de/politik/afd- referent-vom-rechten-rand-a-1606895.