The Austrian government has reported today that it is investigating whether a retired colonel spied for Russia for two decades and has warned that if that suspicion is confirmed, it will not help to improve relations between the European Union and Russia.
"There is suspicion in Austria that a retired colonel of the Austrian Army worked with a Russian intelligence service and helped him for many years," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told a news conference.
According to the head of the Government, this sending of information began in the 1990s and lasted until this year.
The newspaper Kronen Zeitung published today that the military under suspicion would have charged about 300,000 euros.
"That means that we are facing a case of espionage," said Kurz, who reported that the Prosecutor's Office has already begun to investigate the matter.
Regarding relations with Russia, the conservative politician said that such situations "do not improve the relationship between Russia and the European Union."
"Spying is unacceptable and Russian espionage in Europe is unacceptable," said Kurz, whose government maintains very good relations with Moscow.
Although he indicated that it is still a suspicion, Kurz said that, according to the information available, it can be assumed that the case will be confirmed.
Kurz announced that the Foreign Minister, Karin Kneissl, has canceled an official trip to Russia scheduled for 2 and 3 December and that Austria is in contact with its European partners on the matter.
"If the suspicion is confirmed, it will not be the first or the last case in the European Union," he recalled.
Kneissl had Russian President Vladimir Putin as guest of honor at his wedding last August.
Austrian Foreign Affairs has summoned the Russian business manager today to ask for explanations on the case.
Defense Minister Mario Kunasek of the ultranationalist FPÖ said that computers and other technical equipment of the colonel are being analyzed.
Kunasek said that it can not be ruled out that the colonel provided information and that Russia had shown interest in weapons systems, the migratory situation in the country and data on specific people.
The FPÖ, a minority partner in the Government with the Kurz People's Party, maintains a collaboration agreement with United Russia, the formation of Putin, and has defended the end of European Union sanctions against Russia.
Unlike most EU countries, Austria did not expel Russian diplomats after the poisoning in the United Kingdom of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.