Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russian Federation for decades, Vienna says

Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russian Federation for decades, Vienna says

The case has been referred to prosecutors and the former colonel has been questioned.

Russian Federation had in turn summoned the Austrian ambassador, reports said.

Without naming the suspect, Kurz told reporters: "If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases.do not improve relations between Russian Federation and the European Union".

Moscow told Austrian Ambassador Johannes Eigner that it was "puzzled why our Austrian partners chose not to discuss their suspicions with us through the established channels of dialogue, but instead resorted to what has become the customary method for many Western countries - a sensationalized leak to the media and a public demand for an explanation from Russian Federation", according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

Kurz said the Russian charge d'affaires in Vienna was summoned to the foreign ministry.

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the revelation and accused Austria of "making an accusation [Russia knows] nothing about".

He was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April for allegedly planning a cyber attack on the global chemical weapons watchdog at The Hague.

Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek told the news conference that the case came to light "a few weeks ago" as a result of information from another European intelligence agency.

"Lately, our Western counterparts have made it a rule not to use traditional methods but rather megaphone diplomacy".

"Whether this was an isolated case can't be said at the moment", said Kunasek.

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He said that the colonel had handed over "technical equipment" including his laptop which was now being examined.

Weapons systems and migration into Europe were among the issues the suspected spy or his handlers were said to have been interested in.

"Profiles of certain people were also created and passed on", Kunasek said.

However, Austrian media reported that the colonel had been extremely professional and had worked in the Austrian army's control centre in the state of Salzburg.

Austria is not a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and sets great store by its status as a neutral country.

Austria has been among the few European countries that kept up close diplomatic ties with Moscow - despite Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict and following the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.

Until now, Austria has been seen as one of only a few allies of Russian Federation in the EU. The FPO has a "co-operation pact" with Russia's governing United Russia party.

In addition, the FPOe Interior Minister Herbert Kickl admitted in September that Austria had been asked to take "trust-building measures" to retain cooperation with allied secret services.

A European intelligence agency is understood to have tipped off Vienna about the suspected mole.

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