VIENNA, November 9. /TASS/. Relations between Austria and Russia may significantly suffer if accusations against a retired Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russia turn out to be true, Austria's top diplomat Karin Kneissl said on Friday.
"If these allegations (the colonel’s involvement in espionage for Russia - TASS) are proven to be correct, then Austrian-Russian bilateral ties may become seriously strained," the foreign minister was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said earlier on Friday that Foreign Minister Kneissl had cancelled her visit to Russia and summoned Russian diplomats to clarify the situation over the spying allegations. The Austrian top diplomat planned to visit Russia on December 2-3 to discuss the implementation of plans aimed at setting up a Russian-Austrian public platform dubbed the Sochi Dialogue.
Vienna has launched an investigation into a 70-year-old retired colonel, suspected of working for Russian intelligence since the 1990s and providing Moscow with information about Austria’s air force, artillery and the migration crisis. The suspect is said to have received 300,000 euro for his 20-year service. The Austrian prosecution office is pressing charges against the Salzburg-based colonel for dealing with foreign military intelligence. If found guilty, the colonel may face two years in prison. Chancellor Kurz and Defense Minister Mario Kunasek have confirmed the espionage investigation.
The Russian embassy in Austria has not yet commented on the issue.