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15 Jun, 2007 10:19

Moscow calls for release of Russian arrested in Salzburg

Moscow has called for the release of a Russian citizen arrested for alleged spying in Austria. The Russian Foreign Ministry labelled the detention of the Russian Federal Space Agency employee as 'unfriendly’.

The man was detained earlier in the week in Salzburg and the Ministry claims he has diplomatic immunity.

Austria and Germany are dealing with what they say is an espionage case.

The Russian man is reported to have been taking part in the 50th session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna. Russia's Foreign Ministry has confirmed he worked for the Russian Federal Space Agency “Roskosmos”.

Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office has said authorities detained the man at the request of German prosecutors. According to the officials, the man is suspected of receiving sensitive information from a member of Austria's military, who has also been detained.

It is not clear whether the Russian citizen will stay in Austria or will be extradited to Germany.

The spokesperson for the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Vienna, Gerhard Jarosch, has said that the case is a very complicated one and that the Russian man will be soon transferred to Vienna to await any decision about his further destiny.

“There is a suspicion that the Austrian citizen gave secret technical details to the Russian citizen, probably for money. Both are now in custody at the court. The one is already in Vienna but both will be shortly there and the Russian citizen will be brought to Vienna as well. We still have to find out some more details, we will have to ask some more witnesses and things like that – as it is a usual procedure in the pre-trial stage. It is very hard to say how long it is going to take. It could be weeks and it could be months,” Gerhard Jarosch said.

The Austrian citizen was detained in the town of Gmunden, which about 60 KM from Salzburg, where the Russian man was arrested as he was getting off a train.

The Austrian media are already making suggestions who the Russian worked for and what he was doing in Vienna.  
The Russian Embassy in Vienna has lodged an official complaint with the country's foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, back in Moscow, the Austrian Ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry. Its officials say they will do their best to protect the rights of the Russian citizen and to ensure his swift release.

The case comes only three weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Austrian capital, where he described Moscow's relations with Vienna as “problem-free”.