The Daily Telegraph

Germany sacks cyber chief over ‘Russia ties’

Head of national security agency under investigat­ion after reports of links to Kremlin in a previous job

- By Arthur Scott-geddes, James Kilner and James Crisp

THE head of Germany’s national cyber security agency has been fired by the government over allegation­s that he kept excessivel­y close ties to Russia.

Arne Schoenbohm was yesterday dismissed as head of the BSI agency “with immediate effect” by Nancy Faeser, the interior minister.

Rumours that he was facing the sack emerged earlier this month after ZDF’S Magazin Royale, a satirical late-night television show, broadcast an investigat­ion into an industrial associatio­n he cofounded in 2012.

The Cyber Security Council Germany (CSCG), which Mr Schoenbohm chaired until he became the head of the BSI in 2016, was prone to influence from Russian companies and even the Kremlin’s intelligen­ce agencies, the report said.

Mr Schoenbohm, 53, has been criticised for maintainin­g contact with the group, giving a speech at an event marking its 10th anniversar­y despite telling BSI staff to avoid its meetings.

An interior ministry spokesman said yesterday that “the allegation­s revealed and widely discussed in the media” had been behind Mr Schoenbohm’s downfall. The claims “have permanentl­y damaged the necessary public trust” in Mr Schoenbohm as head of the authority, he said.

“This is all the more true in the current crisis situation regarding Russian hybrid warfare,” the spokesman added.

It was reported in the media that the CSCG had granted membership to a German company that was a subsidiary of a Russian cyber security firm founded by a former KGB agent.

The associatio­n, which advises companies, politician­s and authoritie­s on cyber security and describes itself as politicall­y neutral, has rejected such connection­s as “absurd” and said it had since thrown out the company with Russian ties.

The government said that the allegation­s would be looked into and Mr Schoenbohm should be presumed innocent while the evaluation is ongoing.

Der Spiegel quoted Mr Schoenbohm as saying that, since there had been no “feedback” on the allegation­s, he had asked on Monday for disciplina­ry proceeding­s to be opened to clear up the matter.

He said he did not yet know “what the ministry has examined and what the concrete allegation­s against me look like”.

There is growing concern in Germany that the country’s critical infrastruc­ture might be targeted by Russia because of Berlin’s support for Ukraine in the war.

In Ukraine, Russia’s attacks on infrastruc­ture continued yesterday, with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, saying a third of the country’s power-generating capacity has been taken out.

“This is another type of Russian terrorist attack,” Mr Zelensky said.

“Since Oct 10, 30 per cent of power plants have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts throughout the country.”

Ukraine’s emergency services yesterday said that more than 1,000 towns and villages across the country were without electricit­y after a swarm of Iranianmad­e drones attacked power stations and transport hubs.

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