Retired Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russian Federation

Putin right dances with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl as he attends the wedding of Kneissl with Austrian businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in Gamlitz southern Austria. (Rol

Austria has launched a probe into a colonel suspected of spying for Russian Federation for several decades, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday, the latest in a string of cases where Moscow has been accused of espionage in European Union states.

Earlier this week the Austrian Falter weekly published what it said was a document from the Finnish domestic intelligence agency in which it asked for information from partner countries but specifically excluded Vienna's BVT agency.

If confirmed, the unmasking of a spy in the heart of Europe would be the latest blow for President Vladimir Putin's intelligence services.

And analysts also point out that Austrian officials have been calling for closer co-operation between the European Union and Russian Federation in key energy sectors, despite the frosty ties between the two sides.

Apart from the Skripal poisoning incident-which claimed the life of a woman who came into contact with the poison-Russia-EU relations have also been cooled by the revelation of a string of cyber-attacks by Russian intelligence, targeting everyone from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to a meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Two GRU officers were also named as the prime suspects in the nerve agent attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

Vienna's relations with Moscow have been under particular scrutiny since Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) became a coalition partner of the current government past year.

An Austrian colonel is being investigated on suspicion of spying for Russia, Austrian officials have said.

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Issues of interest to the officer or his alleged handlers included weapons systems and migration, Kunasek said, adding that it was not clear whether the case was an isolated one.

Earlier, the Austrian government confirmed reports in the national media that a retired Austrian colonel was being prosecuted for espionage.

The move is particularly notable because Austria has close ties to Russian Federation, which are understood to have caused concern for a number of countries, including the UK.

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".

Russian Federation reacted with indignation to the allegation.

As for the Russians, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the news.

The case indicated that "even after the end of the Cold War, spying has continued and shows the need to tighten our security network, within Austria and within the defence ministry", Kunasek said.

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