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19 Dec, 2022 11:53

Suspected ‘Russian spy’ discovered in Vienna – officials

The man reported to Moscow shortly before the military operation in Ukraine began, Austria’s Interior Ministry claims
Suspected ‘Russian spy’ discovered in Vienna – officials

A Greek citizen living in Vienna is suspected of spying for Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, the Austrian Interior Ministry said on Monday. ‘GRU’ is an acronym previously used by the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

According to a statement on the Austrian Interior Ministry’s website, the suspect is now at large. He was described as the 39-year-old son of a former Russian military intelligence officer who was stationed in the past as a diplomat in Germany and Austria.

“There is a suspicion that he was used as a source for information on foreign policy, society as a whole, and security policy discussions within the Austrian population,” the statement said.

Equipment capable of detecting wiretapping devices and hidden cameras was discovered on the suspect’s properties, as well as a flak jacket, according to the Interior Ministry. It added that cell phones, laptops and tablets were seized during the searches.

“The 39-year-old, who is believed to have received specialized military training in Russia, was in contact with diplomats and intelligence officers from various countries and was in Moscow shortly before and during the military invasion of Ukraine by the Russian forces,” the Interior Ministry said. It stated that the suspect’s report was “delivered to Moscow in order to assess possible reactions from abroad in the run-up to the military operation” in Ukraine.

According to the Austrian Interior Ministry, the suspect was “barely employed” and received low social benefits when living in the country. Nevertheless, he was able to make 65 trips within the EU and visited Russia, Belarus, Türkiye, and Georgia between 2018 and early 2022. The man was also said to have acquired properties in Vienna, Russia, and Greece.

The newspaper Kurier reported that Austrian counter-terrorism units stormed the suspect’s Vienna apartment in late March. The paper said that the suspect was arrested but has since been released.

Russia has not yet commented on the matter. Moscow and several Western countries expelled each other’s diplomats following the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

Ken McCallum, the head of Britain’s counter-intelligence service, MI5, told reporters last month that more than 400 of the over 600 Russian diplomats expelled from European countries throughout the years were allegedly spies.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the allegations. “The British media will never ask McCallum how many British spies are scattered across the world,” she wrote on her Telegram channel at the time.