Aus­tria launches spy probe

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - World -

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.

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