Story by: Aleksandra Stefanova, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
Picture credit: CENA retired Austrian colonel has been accused of spying on behalf of the Russians for 20 years and receiving over 200,000 GBP for supplying sensitive information.
Local media said that it is the biggest spy scandal to have rocked Austria since the case of Alfred Redl during World War I and might have caused even more damage.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Defence Minister Mario Kunasek stated in a press release that they suspect the retired army colonel, whose name was not disclosed, of having spied for the Russians for over 20 years until he was rumbled this year.
Kurz said that it is being treated as an espionage case and that Kunasek was alerted to the allegation a few weeks ago by an allied intelligence source.
According to local media, the colonel carried out inconspicuous duties and dealt with a Russian contact called ‘Juri’.
The colonel allegedly received his orders via a world band receiver and sent his gathered intelligence directly to the Russians by code or satellite communication.
Reports suggest that the Russians had particular interest in the activities of the Austrian army.
The colonel allegedly transmitted confidential information on Austria’s air force, artillery systems and tactical briefings.
He is even said to have relayed reports on Austria’s migration situation and to have profiled numerous high-ranking officers before his cover was eventually blown.
When it was suspected that he had been rumbled, the Russians allegedly ordered him to destroy all incriminating material.
According to reports, Austrian authorities managed to prevent this and army experts seized a laptop which is currently being examined.
Local media reported the colonel was allegedly paid over 300,000 EUR (261,385 GBP) and that he has been reported to the public prosecutor’s office for espionage.
They further reported that he allegedly tried to quit his role in 2006 but Russia did not allow it.
Austria is one of five EU member states which are not NATO members and have non-alignment with military alliances.
According to Kunasek, the case showed “that even after the end of the Cold War, our security net has to be tied even tighter.”
Austria was one of the few EU countries which did not expel Russian diplomats after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury in the UK.
When asked whether they would consider expelling them now, Kunasek said: “We will discuss further actions with our European partners.”
Local media even went so far as to say that the case may have caused greater damage than their pre-WWI espionage affair, when Austrian military officer Alfred Redl spied for the intelligence services of the Imperial Russian Army.