News World Austrian colonel spied for Russia for decades, Vienna says

Austrian colonel spied for Russia for decades, Vienna says

A senior Austrian military officer is believed to have spied for Moscow for decades, Vienna said on Friday, adding to a list of recent Russian espionage cases and souring relations with arguably the country’s closest ally in the EU.

Austria was in the minority of EU countries that did not expel any Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Moscow. Russia denies any involvement.

Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who governs in coalition with the far-right and pro-Moscow Freedom Party, has said that decision was in line with Austria’s neutrality and a tradition of maintaining good relations with countries on both sides of the former Iron Curtain.

Vienna is a major diplomatic centre hosting many foreign officials.

But Kurz hardened his tone on Friday, announcing that a recently retired colonel was believed to have spied for Moscow from the 1990s until this year.

“If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases… do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union,” he told reporters, without naming the suspect. The case has been referred to prosecutors and the former colonel has been questioned.

Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who danced with Russian President Vladimir Putin at her wedding in August, has cancelled a planned trip to Moscow over the case. She has also summoned the Russian charge d’affaires since the ambassador is outside the country.

“For the moment we are demanding transparent information from the Russian side,” Kurz said.

‘UNPLEASANTLY SURPRISED’

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was “unpleasantly surprised” by Vienna’s allegations and Moscow knew nothing about the retired officer, news agencies RIA and Interfax reported.

Russia had in turn summoned the Austrian ambassador, agencies said.

Kurz repeatedly referred to a recent case in the Netherlands in which the government said Russian agents tried to hack into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons while it was investigating the Skripal case.

Western countries last month issued coordinated denunciations of Russia for running what they described as a global hacking campaign.

“Based on the information we have but also because of recent events for example in the Netherlands we can very much assume at the moment that our suspicion will be confirmed,” said Kurz, who has met Putin in Austria twice since the Skripal poisoning.

It is not yet clear whether the case is an isolated one, Defence Minister Mario Kunasek said, speaking alongside Kurz.

Austria was tipped off about the case weeks ago by an ally’s intelligence service, and issues of interest to the officer or his alleged handlers included weapons systems and migration into Europe, Kunasek added.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

13-Cyprus back to double digits but no cases yet out of Larnaca and youth sampling programmes

  13 new cases of Covid-19 were detected in Cyprus in the past 24 hours out of a total of 3 thousand 220 diagnostic tests. The...

Police probe launched on Cyprus Investment Programme

  The Attorney General's Office has instructed police to start taking testimony in establishing possible criminal offences in the Cyprus Investment Programme following the conclusions...

Turkey issues latest NAVTEX in Aegean sea as tempers rise

  Turkey has continued its NAVTEX issuing tactics in the Aegean sea by issuing yet another maritime directive, this time involving a real fire military...

Paris knife attacker suspect confesses

  The man believed to have attacked and wounded two people with a meat cleaver is cooperating with the police and said he had targeted...

UK has no intention of approving direct flights to occupied north Cyprus

  The British government has once again officially made clear that it has 'no plans to approve direct flights between the UK and north Cyprus'. The...

Taste

Sheftalies

Sheftalies, a very tasty dish from the charcoal grill, are minced meat shaped into small sausages and wrapped in “panna” (suet). Panna is a...

Spicy grilled soutzoukakia

Place all ingredients for soutzoukakia in a bowl and mix well, preferably using a food processor, until well combined. Using the mixture, form cigar-shaped...

Souvlakia

Pork souvlaki: Put the meat and all the other ingredients in a bowl (not metal) and mix well. Cover the bowl and keep in...

Pastelli (Carob Toffee)

The nutritional sweet of Pastelli is made with the syrup of carob pods, produced by boiling their pulp until it forms a thick, sticky...