Sun, Nov 11, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Austria suspects ex-colonel spied for Russia for decades

AP, BERLIN

The Austrian government on Friday said that a retired colonel in the country’s military is suspected of having spied for Russia for decades.

The 70-year-old man from Salzburg, who was not named, allegedly provided a Russian intelligence agency with information about Austria’s military and political situation, officials said.

“According to our information this activity may have begun in the 1990s and continued until the year 2018,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters. “That means there’s a case of espionage here.”

The Russian charge d’affaires in Vienna was summoned to the foreign ministry, he said.

“At the moment we’re demanding transparent information from the Russian side,” he added.

In Moscow, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov accused Austria of “microphone diplomacy” for making what he called “public accusations and demanding an explanation over an issue we know nothing about.”

“If a country has concerns or suspicions about another country’s actions and its alleged involvement seen as a threat, it should directly ask for an explanation in line with the international law,” Lavrov said.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs later said it summoned the Austrian ambassador to tell him that “Vienna’s steps based on suspicions not backed by any proof already have exacerbated our previously positive ties.”

Austrian Minister of Defense Mario Kunasek said Vienna was warned several weeks ago by a friendly European intelligence agency about the suspected spy.

Kunasek said the colonel in question retired five years ago.

He said the man, whose electronic devices, including a laptop, were being examined, had told investigators that his handlers were interested in weapons systems, migration to Austria and information about Austrian personalities.

Salzburg prosecutors declined to say whether the man is in custody.

“Whether this was an isolated case can’t be said at the moment,” Kunasek said.

Based on the information available so far “we can indeed assume at the moment that the suspicion [against the colonel] will be confirmed,” Kurz said.

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