The parliamentary hearing has been marked by the people who have not been called to answer questions - PM António Costa being one of these

New ‘contradictions’ surface in Setúbal’s Ukrainian refugee reception scandal

Government and municipality at loggerheads

Further contradictions have appeared today in the ongoing drama centring on how a communist-led municipality has been funding a purportedly pro-Putin association which it tasked with ‘welcoming’ and processing Ukrainian refugees.

This controversy has now reached the stage where various parties have been quizzed by a parliamentary commission – and commentators are saying the only way forwards to restore ‘a sense of well-being’ to Setubal’s citizens is to see the town council fall.

“It is a question of decency”, writes Carlos Rodrigues, director of Correio da Manhã tabloid today.

As to the latest ‘contradictons’, they involve minister for parliamentary affairs Ana Catarina Mendes, who has done her best to say the situation in Setúbal is a one off (this has been refuted by the Assocaition of Ukrainians in Portugal whose president Pavlo Sakola told MPs this week there are numerous pro-Putin organisations operating in plain sight throughout Portugal, and organisations like his have been sounding the alert for years).

Be that as it may, in this instance, Ms Mendes said that Setúbal town council had “never” shown any availability to celebrate any kind of protocol with the High Commission for Migrations, particularly with regard to the temporary protection of displaced people from Ukraine, victims of (the) war”.

A note issued by the town council contradicts this statement, stressing: “Such affirmations do not correspond to the truth, as the council can easily prove through documents”.

The reality of this story that broke in April via Expresso is that there appears to have been a lot of ‘mis-truths’ as authorities try to cover their backs about an issue that it now appears to have been ‘common knowledge’.

Even the prime minister and President Marcelo appear to have been wrong-footed.

CM explains: “The prime minister António Costa and the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, knew of the suspicions of spying and links to Russia of associations and citizens like Igor Khashin, it was revealed yesterday in a hearing behind closed doors in parliament”.

The hearing involved a representative of Portugal’s secret services. 

“The head of government has neither confirmed nor denied (this): “Anyone who has access to information is obliged to the duty of secrecy – and violation of this secrecy constitutes a crime”, the PM has said.

“Marcelo adopted a similar position”, says the paper. His words: “We did not know because the information is classified”.  

According to secret services both the PM and the President of the Republic were sent reports last year “pointing to entities and citizens in Portugal on the secret services radar, like the Edinstvo association run by Igor Khashin.

“Intelligence services explained that spying and counter-espionage connected to the Kremlin has been very active in Portugal since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014”, CM continues.

All this further highlights the ridiculousness of the situation. If the head of government/ president knew about the pro-Putin nature of Edinstvo/ Igor Khashin why on earth did Khashin manage to be tasked with the processing of citizens from a country invaded by Russia?

This is the question that refuses to go away, while authorities continue to investigate whether refugees’ rights have been been violated, not to mention their personal data being allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

What no reports this far clarify is the whereabouts of Igor Khashin, or those of his wife Yulia, who is supposedly still employed by Setúbal town council.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com