The other day, the Russian media, as well as propagand outlets of the so-called "DPR-LPR" fake republics in eastern Ukraine praised the opening of a "DPR representative center" in the Belgian city of Dendermond. The center was headed by someone Chris Roman.
Actually, this is not the first time that we se reports of such wannabe representations being opened in the EU. Indeed, such reports aim precisely at creating a picture of pseudo-republics leading a pro-active foreign policy, and, in a sense, even being tacitly recognized in the EU.
However, in fact, this has nothing to do with reality, since almost all of these missions have absolutely no official recognition and, moreover, for the most part this is about a 24-hour PR event intended to provide photos for Russian news feeds. Meanwhile, people leading these "representations" have a rather dubious reputation. Head of the so-called "DPR representative office" in Marseille, Hubert Fayyar, is in fact a local pimp, who was recently arrested on corresponding charges.
But let's go back to Dendermond.
First of all, I’m sure that the very name of the town of Dendermonde will absolutely not say anything to the average adherent “DPR” and his belonging to Belgium, without the corresponding explanation in the news headlines, would hardly have been known to the Russians. Meanwhile, the interesting moment is that it is a small, provincial town, and not a major Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges. That is, placement in the small towns of the so-called “representative offices” is acceptable that Russia can afford for propaganda.
In addition, Dendermonde is located in eastern Flanders, a region where separatist sentiments regarding the area's independence are quite popular - a kind of Belgian Catalonia, or Scotland.
Secondly, it is interesting to note who took the helm of the office. It's neither a diplomat nor a respected politician, but rather a Kremlin agent in Belgium, Chris Roman. Back in 2018, he visited the occupied Donbas as an observer at the pseudo-elections. Also, through his "Euro-Rus" organization, he's been leading frantic anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian campaigns.
Thus, we're seeing a fairly common scheme that Russia uses to position the pseudo-republics in its information space as "recognized" in the EU. Some small settlement is chosen, preferably with some separatist sentiments among its population, and a local low-profile marginal activist, who is ready to head the "office", and then the "representation" could be opened, practicly in any barn.
However, it is neither an embassy nor any other kind of an official body. For example, this is how a "representative office" was opened in Marseille: in the national register of associations of France, "Association representation de la republique populaire de Donetsk (RPR) en France" and the "Association France Crimée” were registered, therefore no violations of the Vienna Convention were allowed.
That is, for the most part, these "representations" exist in the form of associations, public organizations, or simply interest clubs.
Let me recall that the first pseudo-embassy of the "DPR" in the EU opened in the Czech Republic's Ostrava in September 2016, only to be shut down almost immediately. Then, in December 2016, such a "representative office" appeared in Italy's Turin. The Italian authorities then noted that the "representative office" has no official status whatsoever, since its opening is a private initiative and so far no violations of law have been recorded, so it wasn't possinble to just close the thing down. And in December 2017, an "embassy" was opened in Finland's Helsinki. Its location (a shed extension) raised many eyebrows though... Anyway, Finnish diplomats promptly declared that this "DPR embassy" has no legal status.
Nevertheless, Russian propaganda continues to scatter "representations" of its tumors throughout Europe. And despite those offces having no legal and official status, despite them being located in some weird sheds or garages, only one thing is important to Russian propaganda: they think this allows them spreading across their information platforms, both in Russia and beyond, ephemeral narratives of legitimization of the so-called "LPR-DPR"
This can't get any more ridiculous, but who knows…