A judge in Barcelona is probing possible links between some of the promoters of Catalonia’s 2017 attempt to declare independence from the rest of Spain with an alleged misinformation campaign linked to Russia.

Wednesday’s probe was partly based on evidence that purported Russian agents allegedly offered to provide military aid to Catalan separatists in 2017. It targets the alleged misuse of public funds for the separatist movement in Spain, as well as the alleged role of Russian-backed disinformation campaigns to discredit Spain.

“Russian interference as a geopolitical strategy was a fact during the fall of 2017 when (the Russians) spread fake news and disinformation”, judge Joaquin Aguirre said.

21 suspects were arrested on suspicions of corruption and promoting public disorder. One of the detained was Josep Lluis Alay, a close collaborator of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. Others included David Madi and Oriol Vendrell, two former politicians for Catalonia’s major separatist parties.

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