Retired Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russian Federation

Austria Accuses 70-Year-Old Army Officer Of Spying For Russia For Decades

Earlier, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that a former Austrian colonel was suspected of having conducted espionage for Moscow.

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.

"Of course if such cases are confirmed, whether it be in the Netherlands or in Austria, it can't improve the relationship between the European Union and Russia", Kurz told reporters in Vienna.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz repeatedly referred to the attempted attack on the body in October while discussing the nation's suspected Russian mole.

He demanded "transparent information from the Russian side", saying that "the [Russian] ambassador - or rather, an authorised representative, because the ambassador is not in Austria now - was summoned to the Foreign Ministry".

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.

Lavrov added that Austrian Ambassador Johannes Eigner had already been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The case has been referred to prosecutors, Kurz and Defence Minister Mario Kunasek said.

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"We can't say for the moment whether this is an isolated incident or not", Kunasek said. "The former officer also handed over the equipment; these devices are now being evaluated - a laptop, and so on", Kunasek told reporters.

Weapons systems and migration into Europe were among the issues the suspected spy or his handlers were said to have been interested in.

"Profiles of certain people were also created and passed on", Kunasek said.

The suspect reportedly received 300,000 euros from his alleged employers in Russian Federation, and now faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Austria is not a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and sets great store by its status as a neutral country.

The country was one of the few European Union member states that did not kick out Russian diplomats following the Novickok poisoning in the United Kingdom of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Vienna's relations with Moscow have been under particular scrutiny since Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) became a coalition partner of the current government a year ago. Kneissl was criticized by Austria's opposition for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding in August.

In addition, the FPOe Interior Minister Herbert Kickl admitted in September that Austria had been asked to take "trust-building measures" to retain cooperation with allied secret services.

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