MOSCOW, November 9. /TASS/. The Russian Foreign Ministry has lodged a protest with Austrian Ambassador to Russia Johannes Eigner over Vienna’s statements about the deliberate disclosure of a state secret by a retired Austrian officer in favor of Moscow, the ministry reported on Friday.
"A protest has been lodged over statements made by the Austrian authorities on suspicion of a former Austrian armed forces colonel’s involvement in intelligence activities allegedly in favor of Russia. We said that the fact that our Austrian partners chose not to discuss with us their suspicions through established dialogue channels, resorting instead to the methods, which, unfortunately, have become customary for many Western countries, that is, sensational fake news and public demands for explanations from us, sparks concern. This approach is unacceptable for us," the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.
The ambassador’s attention was also drawn to a statement by Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl who said that relations between Austria and Russia could suffer significantly if accusations against a retired Austrian colonel turned out to be true.
"We stressed that the steps taken by Vienna based on suspicions without any evidence have already resulted in more complex relations between our countries, which until recently had positive dynamics," the ministry added.
For his part, the Austrian diplomat said he would immediately inform his country about the demarche, the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.
The Austrian authorities are investigating a 70-year-old retired army colonel who has allegedly transferred information on the migrant crisis, Austria's military aviation and artillery systems to Russia’s military intelligence since the late 1990s. The Austrian Public Prosecutor’s Office has initiated a criminal case against the retired colonel. If found guilty, he may face up to ten years behind bars. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Defense Minister Mario Kunasek confirmed the espionage probe was underway.
Kurz earlier said that Kneissl had cancelled her visit to Russia, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted there had been no queries from Vienna to Moscow over its suspicions.