The former federal army officer, who is suspected of spying on Russia for more than 20 years, has been arrested. A decision on imprisonment is still pending. This was announced by the spokesman of the competent public prosecutor’s office in Salzburg, Robert Holzleitner, on an APA request.
The accused had been arrested during the night on Saturday in Upper Austria and is now in custody. He will be interviewed in detail. Subsequently, possibly pre-trial detention was requested, it was said by the prosecutor. The application could be justified with the danger of a crime and, if necessary, the risk of absconding.
On Friday Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and Defense Minister Mario Kunasek (FPÖ) had informed that a now retired colonel of the Austrian Armed Forces during his active time in the army spies around 20 years for Russia. „Espionage is unacceptable, and Russian espionage in Europe is also unacceptable,“ Kurz said. The reference to the man had come from a foreign service.
According to Kurz, the espionage activity in the room had started in the 90s and lasted until 2018. According to Kunasek, the suspect has been retired for five years. Repeatedly, the Chancellor spoke of a „suspicion“, but in the face of other cases of Russian espionage in Europe, he assumed, „that the suspicion is confirmed.“ It is also out of the question that this will „not improve“ relations with Russia. The Moscow visit planned by FPÖ Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl for the beginning of December has already been canceled.
Kneissl rejects Lavrov’s accusation
The conflict with Russia continued on Saturday. Kneissl rejected in the telephone conversation with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov the charge of „megaphone diplomacy“ back. Lavrov had used this expression in the context of suspected espionage from Austria. „The approach of the Austrian federal government is based on clear facts,“ said Kneissl according to a statement sent to the APA.
The former federal army officer, who is said to have spied for Russia, has been arrested. For decades, the meanwhile 70-year-old has passed on secret information to Russia.
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„These are criminally relevant events that made law enforcement intervention and prompt public information essential,“ the Minister said today to Lavrov. „This espionage case is an unacceptable interference in internal affairs,“ said Kneissl to the suspicion. „We expect in the investigation of the case, the full cooperation of the Russian side,“ said the Minister, according to her statement.
Moscow sees telephone conversation differently
Previously, the Russian Foreign Ministry had reported in the afternoon in a press release from the phone call. Kneissl and Lavrov had discussed in a telephone conversation the current state of Russian-Austrian relations, which arose from allegations by the Austrian government that a former army worker had spied for Russia, according to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
„K. Kneissl explained the motives behind the relevant decisions in Vienna and expressed the hope that the steps taken would not affect the further development of bilateral cooperation, „the statement said.
For its part, the Russian side emphasized that the practice of publicly collecting unproven allegations contradicted the norms of international communication and was unacceptable. Any reciprocal concerns were fact-based and transmitted through existing channels of dialogue, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated, concluding that other bilateral issues had also been discussed.