Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, Vienna remains a spy haven, swarming with foreign agents who think nothing of killing in broad daylight while the Austrian authorities turn a blind eye, experts said.
Vienna formed the backdrop to Orson Welles’ legendary spy thriller The Third Man in 1949, but even today it remains a hive of secret service activity.
“Austria is still a favorite place for agents. They’re frequently known to the authorities, but rarely hindered. Everything is handled courteously and diplomatically. There’s a long tradition in that,” said Siegfried Beer, director of the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies at the University of Graz.
In the latest addition to a growing list of cases that look unlikely ever to be resolved, a Chechen dissident, Umar Israilov, was gunned down in broad daylight in the Austrian capital on Jan. 23.
Other cases include the 1989 killing of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, the head of a Kurdish opposition group in Iranian Kurdistan, and the attempted kidnapping in October of Kazakhstan’s former intelligence chief Alnur Musayev. Both were living in exile in Austria.
“Austria is a textbook case for this sort of operation that always remains unresolved. As soon as there is any sort of political link, the authorities start acting very strangely,” said journalist Kid Moechel, an author of a book on the subject.
For Peter Pilz, defense expert for the opposition Green party, “Some regimes such as Russia and Iran enjoy a freedom to do as they please in Vienna that they would never enjoy elsewhere.”
“Quite simply, the Austrian authorities don’t want to jeopardize their country’s economic interests,” the parliamentarian said.
He accused the Austrian Interior Ministry of trying to “cover up” the murder of Israilov, who had repeatedly asked for special police protection before he was gunned down while out grocery shopping last month.
Vienna, whose geographical position makes it a point of contact between East and West and North and South, has one of the highest densities of spies in the world, experts said.
It is home to international groups such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, OPEC and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In all, at least 17,000 diplomats are based in Vienna, equivalent to around 1 percent of the city’s population, official figures show.
“Around half of these have links to the secret services,” Beer said.
Politician Pilz asserted that Vienna is also “a hub where it’s very easy to buy arms or hide or launder money.”
However, the advent in recent years of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Austria, including around 20,000 Chechens, is providing new impetus for secret service activity.
AWAITING EXTRADITION: Daniel Duggan has been classified as ‘extreme high risk,’ has not been allowed to use stationery and has been denied treatment, his lawyer said The lawyer for a former US military pilot arrested in Australia and facing possible extradition to the US said that his client was wrongly classified as an “extreme high-risk” prisoner, and he had asked the attorney-general to release him. Former US Marines pilot Daniel Edmund Duggan was arrested in New South Wales in October at the request of the US government, the same week the UK announced a crackdown on its former military pilots working to train Chinese military fliers. The US must lodge an extradition request for Duggan by Dec. 20 under a bilateral treaty, a Sydney court was told yesterday.
WARTIME DIPLOMACY: Zelenskiy met EU leaders and hosted the International Summit on Food Security, which included discussions on agricultural exports from Ukraine Fleeing shelling, civilians on Saturday streamed out of the southern Ukrainian city whose recapture they had celebrated just weeks earlier. The exodus from Kherson came as Ukraine solemnly remembered a Stalin-era famine and sought to ensure that Russia’s war in Ukraine does not deprive others worldwide of its vital food exports. A line of trucks, vans and cars, some towing trailers or ferrying out pets and other belongings, stretched 1km or more on the outskirts of the city of Kherson. Days of intensive shelling by Russian forces prompted a bittersweet exodus: Many civilians were happy that their city had been won back, but
Polish women have not been this angry for this long, and they are taking on the ruling conservatives. Incensed by remarks from the country’s most powerful politician, former Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who accused them of drinking excessively and keeping the birthrate low, many took the streets of Warsaw on Monday. It is a repeat of scenes from two years ago when hundreds of thousands of women marched against a near-total ban on legal abortions, in Poland’s largest public protests in decades. What is different this time is that the ruling party is facing the biggest challenge to its two-term rule before
LEADERSHIP PROBLEM: Hideji Suzuki said that as China becomes more affluent, its leadership is afraid that people will start seeking more freedom and might crack down The former head of a Japan-China friendship group who recently returned to Japan from six years in a Beijing prison for what he said were false spying charges said he still hopes to see China become a global leader, but with better treatment of human rights. Hideji Suzuki, former president of the Japan-China Youth Exchange Association, told a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday that he devoted himself to promoting friendship between the two countries and visited China more than 200 times since the 1980s. He said he was seized at an airport in Beijing as he was leaving the country in