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WSJ: Vienna has become major Russian spy hub for anti-Western operations in Europe

Over the past two years, the number of Russian state employees in Austria has increased to over 500, a significant portion of whom, according to Austrian intelligence estimates, are spies.
19 Feb 2022 rally in Vienna, Austria. Source
WSJ: Vienna has become major Russian spy hub for anti-Western operations in Europe

The capital of Austria has become a major Russian spy center in Europe, where Moscow agents are planning and conducting anti-Western special operations, The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing sources in Austrian intelligence.

The publication notes that over the past two years, the number of Russian state employees in Austria has increased to over 500. More than half of them are diplomats. However, according to Austrian intelligence estimates, up to half of them are spies.

European and American intelligence reports that Vienna is now a base for Russian covert operations, including funding and logistical support for assassinations, sabotage, and spy recruitment across Europe, as well as industrial espionage and influence operations.

Russian diplomats and support staff work in the Austrian capital in more than 40 properties owned by Moscow and for individuals or companies connected to the Russian state. The rooftops of these buildings are equipped with satellite listening devices.

A spokesman for the Austrian Ministry of the Interior said that intelligence agencies are aware that the country has become a target for Russian espionage. Austrian special services are trying to counter the threats within current legislation.

Representatives of the Russian special services based in Vienna are suspected of helping with the recruitment and financing of operations to track Western arms supplies from Poland to Ukraine.

The newspaper says that in Vienna, an operation to murder Russian military helicopter Mi-8 pilot Maksim Kuzminov, who handed over a Russian helicopter to Ukrainian intelligence and later stayed in Spain, was prepared.

Russia is expanding its spy network by recruiting civilians, criminals, hackers, and private detectives for attacks and surveillance of critical infrastructure and other operations across Europe.

Russia also sends large amounts of cash to neighboring countries by road transport, according to a representative of Austrian intelligence. This money then moves through Europe, often as diplomatic mail, which the police cannot inspect.

Currently, EU countries are considering a Czech proposal to ban Russian diplomats from leaving the country where they work.

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