AKIPRESS.COM - Austria has launched a probe into an army colonel suspected of spying for Russia for decades, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said, the latest in a string of cases where Moscow has been accused of espionage in European Union states, Aljazeera reports.
The comments by the Austrian leader on Friday were quickly dismissed by Moscow.
Kurz told a press conference on Friday that the colonel, now retired, is suspected to have worked with the Russian intelligence since the 1990s and until this year.
"Of course, if such cases are confirmed, whether it be in the Netherlands or in Austria, it can't improve the relationship between EU and Russia," Kurz told reporters in Vienna.
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.
"Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned," the chancellor said.
He said that Austria was "demanding transparent information from the Russian side" and that it would consult its European partners on further steps.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl summoned Russian authorities over the matter and cancelled an upcoming trip to Russia.
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."
"If a country has concerns or suspicions about another country's actions and its alleged involvement [is] seen as a threat, it should directly ask for an explanation in line with the international law," Lavrov said.
Russia's foreign ministry summoned the Austrian ambassador to Moscow to discuss the issue, saying the suspicions had "exacerbated" the two country's "previously positive ties".