A court of appeal in France closed the “DPR centre,” the illegal representative office of the self-proclaimed republic in Marseille. The representatives of the “centre” themselves informed about the court ruling. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba also commented on the judgment on his Twitter. He noted, “A court of appeal in France closed the so-called ‘DPR center’ in Marseille, declared it null and illegally founded. The association will be dissolved, its premises closed, and meetings of members prohibited. We had been fighting for this for a long time, and now we won. I am grateful to the court for a fair ruling.”
Such “centres” and “representative offices” emerge in European countries with a powerful Russian lobby. Of course, such institutions do not have any diplomatic status. They are opened in the territory of private institutions and registered as non-governmental organisations. In this way, the agents of Russian influence speculate on two important European values: inviolability of private property and freedom of assembly. The “DPR centre” in Marseille was opened in the Novotel hotel in September 2017, where the rent was paid in advance. Hubert Fayard, a former functionary of the National Front, a French far-right political party known for its affection for Russia and Putin, was declared the “DPR’s representative.” In addition, Fayard is known as a co-owner of a dating site for meeting Russian girls. In 2019, Fayard was arrested on pimping charges. However, despite the apparent toxicity of the “DPR’s representative,” communication with him was maintained, for example, by Marseille mayor deputies Alexandre Schilling and Philippe Franceschetti (both are representatives of The Republicans party), who were present at the opening of the fake diplomatic mission.
Marseille is not the only European city where self-proclaimed republics open their “representative offices.” By the way, the “DPR” is not a pioneer in this matter. South Ossetia and Abkhazia, seized from Georgia, have similar “embassies.” The “DPR” had successful attempts to open “representative offices” in France, Italy, Greece, the Czech Republic and Finland. In Italy, for example, there is a certain business lobby that advocates for lifting sanctions against Russia. It facilitated the creation of “DPR missions” in Verona and Turin. However, politics usually outweighs economy in such stories. One of the most prominent pro-Russian officials in Italy is Stefano Waldegamberi, a member of the regional council of the northern Italian Veneto region, known for his Eurosceptic views, visits to the occupied Crimea, and Veneto’s referendum initiatives.
Ukrainian diplomacy does not ignore the “foreign policy” activities of separatists and sends notes to the countries concerned. However, due to the already mentioned NGO status, it is not easy to stop the activities of illegal “representative offices.” Trials can take years, as the experience of Marseille has shown. Only the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence managed to bring this story to a close. Prior to this ruling, French judiciary saw no grounds for a ban. The Czech Republic reacted more quickly once: it took a year and a half for the Supreme Court to stop the activities of such a “centre” in the city of Ostrava.
Perhaps the precedent of Marseilles will set an example for other countries where illegal “representative offices” of unrecognised separatist formations continue to operate.