Austrian military officer 'spied for Russian Federation for decades'

10 Novembre, 2018, 14:03 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • The Austrian chancellor and defense minister said the case came to light as a result of information from another European intelligence agency

The alleged agent is a retired colonel who was believed to have spied for Moscow in the 1990s.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has cancelled her planned December visit to Russian Federation over the scandal.

Austria maintains a stance of relative neutrality amid the ongoing confrontation between Western nations and Russian Federation. Kneissl was criticized by Austria's opposition for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding in August.

The EU has imposed a series of sanctions against Russian Federation over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and support for separatists in the east, as well as the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom in March.

More than 23 Russian diplomats were kicked out of the UK.

"Based on the information we have, but also because of recent events for example in the Netherlands, we can very much assume at the moment that our suspicion will be confirmed", he said.

But it would also demonstrate the extent of Russia's hostile intelligence operations, penetrating a country that is one of Moscow's closest allies in the European Union.

What is known about the suspected spy?

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Kurz said Austria was not going to withdraw its envoy from Moscow yet or expel Russian diplomats.

If that occurs, the case in Austria and recent allegations of Russian espionage in the Netherlands "don't improve relations between Russia and the European Union", said Kurz, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 28-nation bloc.

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

According to Austrian press reports, the colonel was paid 300,000 euros ($340,000) for his services.

"We demand transparent information from Russia", Kurz said on November 9, adding that the Russian diplomat now in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

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

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for his part, said that he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the news that an Austrian ex-colonel had been accused by Vienna of spying for Russia.

"Recently our Western partners have made it a rule not to use traditional diplomacy, but instead use so-called "megaphone diplomacy" by publicly accusing us and for explanations about matters we know nothing about", Mr Lavrov said.

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