By Catarina Demony and Patricia Vicente Rua
LISBON (Reuters) – Portuguese police raided a refugee aid center run by the municipality of Setubal near Lisbon on Tuesday following allegations that pro-Kremlin Russian attendants collected personal data on dozens newly arrived Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
Police said in a statement that they raided the support center, the municipality building and the Yedinstvo Association of Eastern European Migrants, of which the Russian couple was a member. They seized documents as part of an investigation into alleged crimes of data misuse and unauthorized access.
The Expresso newspaper reported on April 29 that the Russian couple with alleged ties to Moscow, Igor Khashin and his wife Yulia, photocopied the refugees’ personal documents and questioned them about the fate of their family members in Ukraine, which frightened and bewildered many refugees.
Expresso said Portuguese security services have been closely monitoring Khashin’s activities since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
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The association and the couple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The municipality, led by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), said the man was “collaborating” with the refugee center in Setubal, where his wife, also from Russia, was employed.
The PCP has been criticized for failing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The couple have dual citizenship and the municipality said Igor Khashin had worked with the mayor’s office and other local government institutions for many years.
Opposition parties have called for the resignation of Setubal Mayor Andre Martins, who they say was aware of links between the Khashins, the association to which they belong, and the Russian state.
Martins’ office said it was never informed “by any official entity of suspicious acts or behavior” by the association, which has worked with the municipality since 2005.
Speaking in parliament, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ana Catarina Mendes said the matter “should be investigated to the end” and that the government “will not allow those who come here … are not treated with dignity and respect”.
Portugal has taken in nearly 36,000 Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion on February 24.
It is not the first time that Portugal has been criticized for the way it handles sensitive data. Earlier this year, Lisbon City Hall was fined 1.2 million euros for sharing personal data of Russian protesters with the country’s embassy.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Patrícia Rua; Editing by Andrei Khalip)
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