Why may Austria need spy scandal involving Russia?

Why may Austria need spy scandal involving Russia?

Austrian intelligence services detained an Austrian colonel, who had allegedly been spying for Russia for 20 years, newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported today, citing the country's Ministry of Defense.

Information emerged that an investigation is being carried out against a 70-year-old retired colonel who has allegedly passed information about the migration crisis, Austrian military aircraft and artillery systems to Russian military intelligence services since the late 1990s. According to the newspaper, the colonel from Salzburg received about 300,000 euros for his services. "We are very glad that we managed to identify the suspect," the Austrian Ministry of Defense said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has canceled her visit to Russia and summoned diplomats from the Russian embassy to clarify the situation concerning a retired Austrian colonel’s suspected involvement in espionage for Russia, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at an emergency press conference in Vienna.

"As for our relations with Russia, it certainly means that if this suspicion proves true, then such cases - no matter if they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria - will not improve relations between Russia and the European Union. Espionage is unacceptable and Russia’s espionage activities in Europe are unacceptable and condemnable," TASS cited Kurz as saying.

The Austrian top diplomat planned to make a visit to Russia on December 2-3.

Kneissl, in turn, said that relations between Austria and Russia may significantly suffer. "If these allegations are proven to be correct, then Austrian-Russian bilateral ties may become seriously strained," she was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency as saying.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Austrian Ambassador to Moscow Johannes Eigner over Vienna’s statements about a retired Austrian Army officer’s suspected involvement in espionage for Moscow, a ministry source said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it was an unpleasant surprise for him to get no request at all from Vienna for any explanations over the affair of a retired Austrian army colonel who had allegedly spied for Russia.

"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," the top Russian diplomat said.

The senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that today's scandal fits into the discourse of the anti-Russian campaign in the West. "Now it has become a practice to put forward various kinds of claims to Russia. It is impossible not to draw attention to the fact that yesterday the United States they expanded the sanctions list of Russian citizens and companies, and also confirmed the introduction of so-called chemical sanctions. At the same time, the Times published an article about the intention of the UK to encourage Western European partners to increase pressure on Russia. So the Austrian scandal can be qualified as a link in the same chain in the interests of those who oppose themselves to a good-neighborly policy," he said.

Director of the Institute of Strategic Planning and Forecasting, Professor Alexander Gusev expressed confidence that the detention of an alleged spy in Austria is a frame-up. “There are certain political forces that are looking for opportunities to worsen relations between Russia and Austria. In fact, I think the whole thing doesn't hold water, and the choice of Austria, of course, was absolutely not accidental - positive steps to bring our positions closer are like a bone in the throat of Western anti-Russian politicians, and their special services work to destroy Russian-Austrian trust. In other words, they just found a reason to raise the hype and build their policies against this background. If the foreign minister refuses an official visit to Russia, this is serious," he pointed out.

"The forces that benefit from the deterioration of relations between Russia and Austria are in Brussels, the European Union, as well as in UK, Germany and France, receiving instructions from Washington. A kind of three-way union of Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel determine the agenda in Europe, constantly coordinating his actions with Donald Trump. In the framework of the anti-Russian course, it's, of course, inconvenient for them that Austria behaves inadequately to their policies, therefore it is necessary to find any kind of reason to spoil Vienna's relations with Moscow. Now they give present Russia not just as an aggressor country, but as a country that is waging a hybrid war against the West and the U.S. It is expected that such scandals will occur in the future as well," Alexander Gusev concluded.