Austrian colonel 'spied for Russian Federation since 1990s'

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 10, 2018

Austria's government said Friday that a retired colonel in the country's military is suspected of having spied for Russian Federation for decades, a claim swiftly dismissed by Moscow.

Its foreign minister, Karin Kneissl, who shared a waltz with President Putin at her wedding in August, has now cancelled a trip to Moscow and summoned the Russian chargé d'affaires for an explanation.

Austrian Defence Minister Mario Kunasek said that Vienna had learned about an Austrian retired colonel suspected of conducting intelligence activity for Russian Federation from "a friendly service a few weeks ago".

"Of course, if such cases are confirmed, whether it be in the Netherlands or in Austria, it can't improve the relationship between the European Union and Russia", Kurz said, referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April for allegedly planning a cyber-attack on the world's chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague.

Austria became aware of the case weeks ago thanks to a tip-off from an ally's intelligence service and "technical devices" including a laptop have been seized, Kunasek said.

The Austrians say they want the Russian to provide "transparent information".

Austria has been among the few European countries that kept up close diplomatic ties with Moscow - despite Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict and following the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russian Federation scheduled for December 2-3 due to the espionage case.

Kunasek said the colonel in question retired five years ago.

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the revelation and accused Austria of "making an accusation [Russia knows] nothing about".

"Whether this was an isolated case can't be said at the moment", said Kunasek.

The case indicated that "even after the end of the Cold War, spying has continued and shows us the need to tighten our security network, within Austria and within the defense ministry", Kunasek said.

The suspect reportedly received 300,000 euros from his alleged employers in Russian Federation, and now faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Vienna's relations with Moscow have been under particular scrutiny since Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) became a coalition partner of the current government a year ago.

Earlier this week the Austrian Falter weekly published what it said was a document from the Finnish domestic intelligence agency in which it asked for information from partner countries but specifically excluded Vienna's BVT agency.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE