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Austrian president calls not to dramatize relations with Russia over spy case

November 11, 2018, 0:41 UTC+3 VIENNA

This scam should be investigated first, Alexander Van der Bellen said

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Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen

© Mikhail Mettsel/TASS

VIENNA, November 11. /TASS/. Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen will not be discussing with Russian President Vladimir Putin the case of the Austrian retired officer suspected by Vienna of spying for Russia and he calls not to dramatize the relations with Russia in the wake of the scandal.

"No. At the time when several dozens of heads of state and government are in Paris, we [Putin and Van der Bellen] are not scheduled to hold bilateral talks," Van der Bellen said aired by the Austrian radio station O-1, when asked whether he would touch upon the issue in talks with Putin.

"This scam (the alleged espionage case - TASS) should be investigated first. Let us see if it contains something else than a so-called bogus story, in this case we will be taking corresponding measures," the president answered when asked how relations would develop between Austria and Russia in the wake of this case.

"Now, we need to investigate if it is true, if the charges are right, and what sort of information that officer could have access to - either related to Austria’s national affairs or some other talks, for instance with NATO. It should be clarified. At the moment, I can see no reasons to dramatize this," he reassured the listeners.

According to the Austrian president, it would have been better if the retired officer’s alleged activities had been disclosed by the Austrian intelligence service but in such cases cooperation with allied services is important.

"Unconditionally, it would have been better if we could have uncover this provided there is something serious to uncover. However, it is due to cooperation of the Austrian intelligence services that we received this information," Van der Bellen said mentioning that a third country supplied Austria with information on a suspected spy.

On November 11, Paris will host commemorations marking the Armistice that ended the First World War, which was signed 100 years ago. Besides, the Paris Peace Forum will open later in the day. The events are to be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen among other world leaders.

Spy scandal

On Friday, Austria’s authorities said that the country’s law enforcement agencies were conducting an investigation into a case of a 70-yeal-old retired Austrian colonel who was suspected of working for Russian intelligence since the 1990s and of providing Moscow with information about Austria’s air force, artillery systems, high-ranking officials and the migrant crisis. If the man is found guilty, he may face a prison term of up to ten years.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said on Saturday after her phone talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Austria expects that Russia would cooperate in full over the case of a retired Austrian officer suspected of spying for Moscow. According to Kneissl, she rejected Russian accusations that Austria was doing megaphone diplomacy and said the Austrian government’s steps were based on clear facts. Espionage was inadmissible interference in Austria’s domestic affairs, she warned.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Ministry pointed out after the ministers’ conversation that Russia underscored "inadmissibility of the practice, which runs counter to norms of international communication, of making evidence-free accusations public." The Russian Foreign Ministry added that Kneissl clarified the motives behind Vienna’s decisions in this case and also expressed the hope that those steps would not affect the future development of bilateral cooperation.

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