Austrian court convicts former colonel of spying for Russia


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A retired Austrian army colonel has been found guilty of spying and betraying state and military secrets to Russian military intelligence over the course of at least 25 years.
The 71-year-old man, whose identity has not been made public and whose trial was held behind closed doors, was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence by a regional court in Salzburg late on Tuesday.
The former colonel was accused of having used espionage equipment to pass on secret information about the Austrian military’s weapons systems and artillery positions between the years 1992 and 2018, in exchange for about €280,000 (£250,000).
The accused denied espionage, saying he had merely passed on publicly available information, in a role similar to that of a foreign correspondent.
The former colonel, who was stationed with Nato forces at the Golan Heights and Cyprus before joining the Austrian defence ministry in 1990, did however concede to having received payments amounting to €220,000.
Austrian investigators have said they believe the colonel was recruited by Igor Zaitsev, a high-ranking Russian military intelligence officer for whom Vienna has issued an international arrest warrant. Moscow has denied Zaitsev’s involvement in espionage.
The prosecutor’s office in Salzburg had formally accused the man on 8 November 2019.
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