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Austrian chancellor demands transparency from Russia in espionage investigation

November 09, 13:09 UTC+3

A retired officer from the Austrian army had been reportedly spying against his country's military and transferring documents to Russia since the 1990s

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz

© EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

VIENNA, November 9. /TASS/. Austria demands from Russia transparency in the investigation into the case of a retired Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russia, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at an urgent news conference in Vienna on Friday. Austria’s authorities are not going to recall their ambassador from Moscow yet, he said.

"Currently there is suspicion, it should be investigated and found whether it will be confirmed or not. Based on the information we possess or the recent events in the Netherlands, we may presume that this suspicion will be confirmed. Now we demand transparent information from the Russian side," Kurz said.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry summoned employees of the Russian Embassy as the Russian ambassador is not in Austria, he said. "We will discuss further steps with our European partners. If the suspicion is confirmed it will not be the first and only case in the EU," he stated.

In addition, Kurz stated that Austria is not going to withdraw its ambassador from Russia yet or expel Russian diplomats from Austria. "We will discuss our further steps with European partners as soon as we receive precise information. In such a situation it is necessary to make gradual steps," Kurz said, answering the question on whether Austria will take measures against Russia.

Vienna suspects a retired Austrian army colonel of spying for Russia, Kurz said.

"We have to inform you that Austria suspects a retired Bundesheer [the Austrian Armed Forces - TASS] colonel of working for the Russian intelligence," Kurz said. "According to information available to us, it all began in the 1990s and went on until 2018. It means that we are dealing with an espionage case. The defense minister has contacted judicial bodies in this regard," the Austrian chancellor noted, adding that if suspicions were confirmed, the retired officer could face criminal liability.

"As for our relations with Russia, it certainly means that if this suspicion proves true, then such cases - no matter if they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria - will not improve relations between Russia and the European Union. Espionage is unacceptable and Russia’s espionage activities in Europe are unacceptable and condemnable," Kurz stressed.

At the same time, he added that "for now, this is only a suspicion, judicial bodies are working on that." "As soon as it is confirmed and we are one hundred percent sure, we will inform you," Kurz told reporters.

The Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported on Friday an investigation for a 70-year-old retired colonel who has allegedly transferred information about the migration crisis, the Austrian military aircraft and artillery systems to Russian military intelligence services since the late 1990s. According to the newspaper, the colonel from Salzburg received about 300,000 euros for his services. Austrian prosecutors launched a criminal case against the retired colonel under a section about work for a foreign intelligence service. The suspect may face two years behind bars under this section. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Defense Minister Mario Kunasek confirmed the information that an investigation for a former Austrian colonel is underway on charges of spying for Russia. The Russian Embassy in Austria did not comment on this situation.

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