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Court refuses to arrest Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russia

The judge reportedly announced there was no threat that the suspect could escape

VIENNA, November 13. /TASS/. The Salzburg District Court announced on Tuesday it has refused to grant a motion of the prosecutors on arresting a retired Austrian army colonel, whom Vienna suspects of having spied for Moscow over the past 20 years.

On Monday, Salzburg’s prosecutors demanded the arrest of the retired colonel and placing him in a pre-trial detention center due to serious charges and amid fears that he could escape. The 70-year-old man was detained by Austrian police on Saturday and has been placed in a temporary detention facility.

According to the court representative, after questioning the suspect the judge announced a decision not to place him under arrest and said there was no threat that he could escape. She noted that the man had known about the investigation a long time ago and did not try to flee. The court ordered the retired officer to hand over his foreign passport and report to police on a daily basis.

On November 9, Austria’s authorities said that the country’s law enforcement agencies were conducting an investigation into a case of a 70-year-old retired Austrian army colonel who was suspected of working for Russian intelligence since the 1990s and 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 up to ten years in jail.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has demanded from Russia transparency in the investigation. Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl cancelled her visit to Russia scheduled for December 2-3 and called for Moscow’s full-fledged cooperation during the investigation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that he was unhappily surprised as Vienna had not sent any request for providing information concerning Austria’s suspicions. Austrian President and Commander in Chief Alexander Van der Bellen warned against stirring up tensions and called on the sides to wait until the investigation ended. The president noted that the spy scandal could not seriously harm Austrian-Russian cooperation in the long run.