Kevin Ellul Bonici implicated in ‘Red Dalia’ smear campaign in Brussels

European Parliament security probe says Maltese national employed with Nigel Farage’s EFDD behind unauthorised distribution of KGB smear campaign against Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite

Red Dalia in blue: Grybauskaite’s alleged past as a KGB collaborator featured in an unauthorised English translation of a book that Ellul Bonici is accused of distributing in MEPs’ pigeonholes without permission
Red Dalia in blue: Grybauskaite’s alleged past as a KGB collaborator featured in an unauthorised English translation of a book that Ellul Bonici is accused of distributing in MEPs’ pigeonholes without permission
Kevin Ellul Bonici
Kevin Ellul Bonici

Kevin Ellul Bonici, husband of former Labour candidate Sharon Ellul Bonici, has been implicated in the unauthorised distribution of a highly critical biography of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite that was placed in the pigeonholes of all 751 MEPs back in December, 2014.

The security probe was ordered by the European Parliament’s College of Quaestors after a complaint by Lithuanian MEP Antanas Guoga.

The book is an unflattering biography of the former European Commissioner, containing allegations of Soviet and KGB collaboration, and which was translated into English and reprinted without the authorisation of its author, journalist Ruta Yanutene.

Supporters of Grybauskaite say the smear campaign was orchestrated by the Kremlin in response to the Lithuanian President’s outspoken views of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which she accused of acting as a “terrorist state” during the Ukrainian crisis.

In a confidential letter to European Parliament president Martin Schulz, director-general for security and safety Francesca Ratti said that Ellul Bonici invited a Russian citizen and a Polish citizen born in Moscow, as well as another unidentified fourth person, into the EP, to distribute the books.

Ellul Bonici is a member of staff in the secretariat of the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, led by UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

The EFDD has denied that it was behind the book hand-out after Ellul Bonici was caught distributing the book on surveillance cameras.

Ratti said that following verification, it transpired that on 10 December, 2014, at around 1:30pm, Ellul Bonici and three other men placed the ‘Red Dalia’ books in the MEPs’ pigeonholes on the third floor of the Altiero Spinelli building “without previous consent or authorisation from the competent service”.

Ratti said that it was Ellul Bonici who brought the books into the parliament and distributed them, together with the three other men. “My services have not confronted the identified individuals. However, we remain available for any additional steps you deem necessary,” Ratti told Schulz.

Sharon Ellul Bonici, who spoke for husband Kevin, denied with MaltaToday that he was behind the book’s distribution. “I hope the EP investigates the matter thoroughly. This is news to him and he said he wants his name cleared.”

The book was distributed days after the Lithuanian President accused Russia on the BBC of being a terrorist state, and a reaction from the Russian foreign ministry deriding Grybauskaite’s “Komsomol [Young Communist League of the USSR] fervour”.

EP President Martin Schulz has said he will wait for the EFDD group to make its own decision on disciplinary measures against Ellul Bonici. “We’re not the police or we’re not the headmaster of anybody, its the political group that has to decide by themselves what they want to do with their staff member,” Schulz’s spokesman Armin Machmer said.

“We cannot control the content, it is impossible to control the content in the mailboxes. But of course, if unauthorised people distribute stuff, that is against the rules,” Machmer said. 

Red Dalia smear

Red Dalia is a highly critical, investigative biography of Dalia Grybauskaite by the Lithuanian journalist Ruta Yanutene. But according to the Lithuanian news service DELFI, nobody knows where it was published and who translated it into English to be distributed to MEPs. Days after it was distributed, the English-language version of the book became available online.

The unflattering biography portrays Grybauskaite as an unscrupulous careerist who joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the age of 27, graduating from Leningrad State University in Moscow and then teaching political economy of socialism in Vilnius High Communist Party School. She has denied being a KGB collaborator.

In Lithuania, the allegations are an uncomfortable reminder of the scars of Soviet occupation, which saw as many as 30,000 anti-Soviet partisans killed in 40 years. 

Supporters of Grybauskaite, such as Lithuanian MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis, said the appearance of the book inside the EP was an “attack against the head of Lithuania” after her harsh criticism of Russia and support for the Ukrainian demonstrators.

Outspoken Russia critic

The outspoken Baltic leader sparked anger in Moscow last week by labelling Russia a “terrorist state” and claiming that Ukraine is fighting not just for its freedom but also in defence of all Europe.

On 24 September, Grybauskaite told The Washington Post that Russia was being allowed by “Europe and the world… to be a country that is not only threatening its neighbours but is also organizing a war against its neighbours. It is the same international terrorism as we have in Iraq and Syria… Yes. I think that Russia is terrorizing its neighbours and using terrorist methods.”

She then directly called Russia a “terrorist state” in an interview with Lithuanian TV and Radio company LRT. She was later rebuked by the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which claimed Grybauskaite’s hostile rhetoric was a product of her “complexes about her Soviet past” and recommended that she “temper her Komsomol [Young Communist League of the USSR] fervour.”

Again, in a comment to the BBC, Grybauskaite reiterated her claims, saying that “Russia demonstrates the qualities of a terrorist state”.

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