Austrian ex-officer suspected of spying for Russian Federation since 90s

Putin right dances with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl as he attends the wedding of Kneissl with Austrian businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in Gamlitz southern Austria. (Rol

Putin right dances with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl as he attends the wedding of Kneissl with Austrian businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in Gamlitz southern Austria. (Rol

Earlier, the Austrian government confirmed reports in the national media that a retired Austrian colonel was being prosecuted for espionage.

Foreign Minister Kneissl has canceled a planned trip to Moscow over the case.

The man, who wasn't named, allegedly provided a Russian intelligence agency with information about Austria's military and political situation, officials said.

"We demand transparent information from Russia", Kurz said on November 9, adding that the Russian diplomat now in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for his part, said that he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the news that an Austrian ex-colonel had been accused by Vienna of spying for Russia.

Without naming the suspect, Kurz told reporters: "If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases.do not improve relations between Russian Federation and the European Union".

Austria's Defense Minister Mario Kunasek said Vienna was warned several weeks ago by a friendly European intelligence agency about the suspected spy.

"Lately, our Western counterparts have made it a rule not to use traditional methods but rather megaphone diplomacy".

"We can't say for the moment whether this is an isolated incident or not", Mr Kunasek said.

He said that the colonel had handed over "technical equipment" including his laptop which was now being examined.

However, Austrian media reported that the colonel had been extremely professional and had worked in the Austrian army's control centre in the state of Salzburg.

The spy and his suspected handlers are said to have been particularly interested in weapons systems and European Union migration.

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

Over the past year Vienna has sought to cast itself as a bridge between the Kremlin and the European Union and was one of the few EU member states not to expel any Russian diplomats after the chemical weapons attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

"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", he said.

In August, Kneissl caused controversy by inviting Putin as a guest of honor to her wedding. The FPO has a "co-operation pact" with Russia's governing United Russia party.

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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