Austria says a retired colonel in the country’s military is suspected of having spied for Russia since the 1990s. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday that Russia’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry, and Austria’s top diplomat has cancelled a planned trip to Russia, AP reports.
Kurz said the case, and allegations of Russian espionage in the Netherlands, “don’t improve relations between Russia and the European Union.” He added that “at the moment we’re demanding transparent information from Russia.”
Austria’s Defence Minister Mario Kunasek told reporters that Vienna was warned several weeks ago by a friendly European intelligence agency about the suspected spy. Kunsaek said the colonel in question retired five years ago. He said the man’s electronic devices, including a laptop, are currently being examined.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was “unpleasantly surprised” by the news about a retired Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Moscow on Friday, TASS reports.
"This was an unpleasant surprise to me. It has been a custom from time immemorial for any country that feels some concerns or suspicions over actions by another country to ask for explanations directly in accordance with the rules of international communication. Lately, our Western counterparts have made it a rule not to use traditional methods but rather megaphone diplomacy.They accuse us in public and then demand public explanations over an issue we know nothing about," Lavrov said.
"It is necessary to follow the rules that have been shaped in the process of international communication. We are inviting Austria’s ambassador to the Foreign Ministry. We will draw his attention to what methods should be used, if they have any questions to Russia," Lavrov said.