Europe’s Democratic Guardian Tiny Kox denies spying links to Russia

Tiny Kox, the Dutch leader of a venerable European democracy watchdog, has denied being a Kremlin fixer after a Russian spy described him as a privileged contact in leaked files.

“These claims were false and unfounded,” Kox’s private office told EUobserver via email on Wednesday (September 14).

  • Former PACE General Secretary Bruno Aller (right) during an official meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) in Moscow in 2002 (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The 69-year-old left-wing politician became president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France, in January 2022.

Like the EU, the Council of Europe [CoE] was created to forge European unity after the Second World War, but has 46 member states.

PACE expelled Russia in March and Kox strongly condemned its invasion of Ukraine.

But according to Russian intelligence reports leaked to the Dossier Center, a London-based NGO, Kox was seen as a darling of Kremlin interests before his elevation to PACE’s top job.

In Russian records, Valery Levitsky, an officer with Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, describes Kox as someone who could “get things done” for the Kremlin in Strasbourg.

In a June 2017 document, Levitsky talks about Kox’s potential help in delaying the ejection of Pedro Agramunt, a pro-Kremlin former Spanish PACE president, from office.

In a December 2017 report, Levitsky also says that “according to Tiny [Kox]everything should be over in our favor by April,” speaking as part of a lobbying campaign to restore Russia’s voting rights in PACE.

PACE suspended Russia’s rights in 2014 after its first invasion of Ukraine. His voting rights were eventually restored in 2019 before his expulsion from PACE this year.

Levitsky was Russia’s consul general in Strasbourg before France expelled him in 2018 for spying.

He was already drafted into the Russian Armed Forces [of which the GRU is part] when he was Russian vice-consul in Marseille, France, between 1995 and 1998, a Dossier Center document says.

Levitsky was also a graduate of the Pushkin Higher Air Defense Radioelectronics School and the Moscow Military Diplomatic Academy before making France his second home.

The GRU man pushed for Kox to get the PACE leadership job through intermediaries in Strasbourg, even after he was named persona non grata by France, the Dossier Center documents revealed.

In a leaked report in 2021, Levitsky described Kox as a shoe for the PACE presidency, for example.

“The rapporteur [Kox]the future president of the assembly, puts it quietly [a Russian wish] on his priority list to change jobs. He can’t write it black and white,” Levitsky said of Kox, referring to Kox’s March 2021 PACE report titled “The Assembly’s Vision for the CoE’s Strategic Priorities.”

The Levitsky Circle

Other senior PACE faces were also in Levitsky’s ring, the leaked Dossier Center files show.

These include Agramunt, who publicly disgraced himself by visiting Russia’s bloodthirsty ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in 2017. They also include Bruno Aller (a former French Secretary General of PACE) and René van der Linden (a former Dutch PACE President) .

EUobserver asked Kox’s office detailed questions arising from the Dossier Center files, such as: “Did he [Kox] never heard of, met or corresponded with Mr. Valery Levitsky and what was their relationship?

“In December 2017, did Mr. Tiny Kox advocate restoring Russia’s voting rights in PACE or did he discuss the idea over dinner with Mr. van der Linden ?” we also asked.

Kox’s office said he would prefer to answer in-depth questions in a face-to-face interview in the future.

Kox is well known in The Hague having served as general secretary and chairman of the senate of the Socialist Party, a minor faction in the Dutch parliament.

He was also a member of the Dutch parliamentary assembly to NATO in Brussels from 2003 to 2010.

Levitsky is now deputy director of the international cooperation department of the Russian parliament in Moscow.

France expelled 35 other Russian diplomats for spying in April as part of a wider EU response to the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s permanent representation to PACE had around 80 staff before it was expelled from the assembly in March, but PACE believes most have now returned home.

The Dossier Center is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oil baron turned dissident, and tracks Russian espionage in Europe.