Austria launches spy probe
Austria has a launched a probe into a colonel suspected of spying for Russia for several decades, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday, the latest in a string of cases where Moscow has been accused of espionage in EU states.
Kurz told a media conference that the 70-year-old army official, now retired, is suspected to have begun working with Russian intelligence in the 1990s and carried on until 2018.
The public prosecutor’s office in Salzburg province confirmed the colonel was being investigated for the crime of revealing state secrets.
Foreign minister Karin Kneissl has summoned the Russian charge d’affaires over the matter and cancelled an upcoming trip to Russia.
Russia’s foreign ministry meanwhile said it was calling in the Austrian ambassador to discuss the issue.
“Of course if such cases are confirmed, whether it be in the Netherlands or in Austria, it can’t improve the relationship between the EU and Russia,” Kurz told reporters in Vienna.
He was 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.
“Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned,” the chancellor added.
He said Austria was “demanding transparent information from the Russian side” and that it would consult its European partners on further steps.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he had been “unpleasantly surprised” by the news from Vienna.
He accused the West of using “megaphone diplomacy” instead of traditional diplomatic methods.