German spy agency concerned about Russian penetration of Austrian government

Sebastian Kurz Vladimir PutinA day after Austria’s political system was thrown into a disarray by a covert video featuring the country’s vice chancellor and a woman posing as a Russian investor, German intelligence sources have raised fears that Russia may have penetrated the Austrian government with informants. Heinz-Christian Strache, who heads Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, stepped down from the post of vice chancellor on Saturday. His resignation came a day after two German media outlets aired a covert video in which Strache appears to be promising to award state contracts in the construction sector to a woman posing as a Russian investor. In return for the state contracts, the unnamed woman said that she would have the firm of her uncle —a Russian oligarch— purchase an Austrian newspaper and use it to support Strache’s political party.

According to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the video was filmed in Spain in 2017, two months before the Freedom Party won a record 26 percent in Austria’s national election. This gave the party 51 seats in the Austrian parliament and propelled Strache to the post of vice chancellor. In his resignation statement, Strache said he was filmed while drunk and was engaged in “macho talk” in an atttempt to “impress the attractive hostess”. He also dismissed the airing of the covertly filmed video as “a targeted political assassination”, but added that he was resigning from the government as a matter of principle. Shortly afterwards, the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Chairman of the rightwing Austrian People’s Party, announced that new national elections would be held “as soon as possible”.

Meanwhile, German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag reported on Saturday that the director of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), warned that sharing intelligence with Austria was “risky”. The Berlin-based newspaper said that BfV director Thomas Haldenwang was speaking at a closed-door meeting with German parliamentarians. He reportedly told his parliamentary audience that, due to the close relationship between the Freedom Party and Moscow, members of the Austrian government could potentially “misuse” and in some cases “forward to Russia” intelligence that they receive from other European Union member-states. This is not the first time that such warnings have come out of Germany. Last year August Hanning, who served as director of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) openly warned Western officials to stop sharing intelligence with the government of Austria, because of its alleged proximity to the Kremlin.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 May 2019 | Permalink

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3 Responses to German spy agency concerned about Russian penetration of Austrian government

  1. Mike S Goodmann says:

    Wasn’t this also a problem during the Cold war as well?

  2. Alejandro Spia says:

    The remarks made by Die Welt about Austria’s reliability and its weakness towards Russia is well know and already reported here before. Western Europe has always seen Austria as a weak kink, a country flooded with communist networks of spies of all sorts and a base for the KGB operations spreading from Central Europe all over. Austria should be put under a very big magnifying glass and not given a slight credit for reliability, secret cooperation and tested for improvement for a long time.

  3. Pete says:

    Hi Mike S Goodmann

    Russian penetration of Austria was indeed “also a problem during the Cold war”. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied-occupied_Austria

    Towards the end of WWII the victorious Allies decided ex-Nazi Austria would be divided into 4 zones. About 40% was controlled by Soviet forces 1945-1955. Even after the Soviet withdrawal (1955) this would have left a legacy of Soviet-Russian controlled sleeper cells or quiet Austrian Agents of Influence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_of_influence

    Those Agents of Influence could have left a useful-for-Russia heritage of children and grandchildren still active in Austrian politics.

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