Russian espionage in Germany rising sharply, says Berlin
April 24, 2014 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Russian espionage activity in Germany has reached levels not seen since the days of the Cold War, according to senior counterintelligence officials in Berlin. An article published in weekly newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag on Sunday said Russian intelligence-gathering activities in the German capital center on infiltrating German political institutions and corporations. The Berlin-based publication said Russian spies typically seek to gain “intimate knowledge” of German energy policy as well as corporate practices. Another area of interest for Russian intelligence concerns Germany’s activities in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Citing Hans-Georg Maassen, Director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV —Germany’s primary counterintelligence agency), Die Welt said that no foreign intelligence service is more active on German soil than Russia’s SVR —one of the KGB’s successor agencies. Most Russian intelligence officers “pose as embassy workers”, said the paper, adding that the BfV believes up to a third of all Russian diplomats stationed at the German capital have a “background in intelligence gathering”. According to Burkhard Even, who directs the BfV’s counterintelligence operations, the primary task of Russian intelligence operatives in Germany is to “closely analyze individuals who could be of interest” to Moscow. Those targeted —usually key staffers at the Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament) or major German companies— are then systematically accosted by Russian ‘diplomats’. The latter often ask to take them out to lunch or dinner, said Maaßen, and will often pick up the bill. In some cases they will even present targeted individuals with “small presents” with a Russian flavor. Russian operatives are careful never to hand over money directly to potential recruits. Instead, they will try to come up with carefully concocted pretexts to meet them regularly at various restaurants or bars, but “never in the immediate vicinity of the Russian Embassy”. BfV officials added that German counterintelligence officers are “often astounded” by the naivety of German citizens who have been accosted by Russian operatives. When approached by the BfV, they are often genuinely surprised to be told that they have passed sensitive information to unregistered agents of a foreign power.