Austria to expel Russian diplomat amid ‘spy’ report

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VIENNA  – Vienna will expel a Russian diplomat, Austria’s foreign ministry said on Monday (Aug 24), as media reported he had been involved in economic espionage for years.

“We can confirm that a Russian diplomat will be expelled,” the ministry said in a statement to AFP, adding his behaviour had violated diplomatic relations.

The ministry declined to give further details.

The Kronen Zeitung tabloid said the diplomat had been given until Sept 1 to the country, adding that he had spied with the help of an Austrian citizen at a high-tech enterprise for years.

The Russian Embassy in Vienna slammed the expulsion .

“We are outraged by the authorities’ unfounded decision, which is detrimental to constructive relations. We are sure that a corresponding response from Moscow will not be long in coming,” it said in a tweet.

Austria has boasted close ties with Russia in recent years.

In 2018, Austria said it would not follow a number of other Union countries in expelling Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, stressing its neutrality.

Raising eyebrows, former foreign minister Karin Kneissl – under Austria’s previous conservative and far-right coalition government – invited Russian President Vladmir Putin to her wedding later that year.

Both sides insisted the invitation was a private matter.

But widely circulated photos of Ms Kneissl bowing to Mr Putin after their dance raised questions of Austria’s neutrality.

In June, a retired Austrian army colonel was jailed for three years after being convicted of spying for Russia.

The 71-year-old who has not been named “betrayed state secrets at the expense of Austria for a foreign secret service”, a Salzburg court ruled.

The verdict found he also “deliberately disclosed a military secret”.

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