Earlier, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that a former Austrian colonel was suspected of having conducted espionage for Moscow. Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov lambasted Vienna for using “megaphone diplomacy” instead of traditional diplomatic methods, adding that the Austrian Ambassador has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Austrian Defence Minister Mario Kunasek said that Vienna had learned about an Austrian retired colonel suspected of conducting intelligence activity for Russia from “a friendly service a few weeks ago”.
“After that, the ministry began to negotiate with a view to identifying and then talking with him. The former officer also handed over the equipment; these devices are now being evaluated — a laptop, and so on,” Kunasek told reporters.
The statement came after Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that “Austria suspects that a retired colonel of the Austrian Armed Forces has worked with the Russian intelligence service for many years.”
“According to our information, it began in the 1990s and lasted until 2018,” Kurz told reporters.
He demanded “transparent information from the Russian side”, saying that “the [Russian] ambassador — or rather, an authorised representative, because the ambassador is not in Austria now — was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.”
“We will discuss the rest with our European partners,” Kurz noted.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for his part, said that he was “unpleasantly surprised” by the news that an Austrian ex-colonel had been accused by Vienna of spying for Russia.
He underscored that the Russian Foreign Ministry would explain to the Austrian Ambassador which methods should be used if Vienna has questions for Moscow, stating that Austria had resorted to “megaphone diplomacy” instead of traditional diplomatic methods. Lavrov added that Austrian Ambassador Johannes Eigner had already been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Earlier in the day, the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung cited the country’s Ministry of Defence as saying that Austria’s intelligence services had detained on Thursday a 70-year-old ex-Austrian colonel who had allegedly spied for Russia for 20 years.
The suspect reportedly received 300,000 euros from his alleged employers in Russia, and now faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail.