Vienna Is Becoming A Hub For Russian Spying

Moscow allegedly attempted to kill an investigative journalist, Christo Grozev, in Austria, writes WSJ. The murder plot is one of several incidents that demonstrate how Vienna has emerged as Russia’s latest espionage hub in Europe.

600 spies posing as diplomats were expelled from European capitals after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Last year, Germany closed the Russian embassy in Munich, and the personnel simply moved to Salzburg.

Over the past two years, the number of Russian state employees in Austria has swelled to over 500 from 300 to 400. They use over 40 properties owned by Moscow and people or companies connected to Russia. Austrian intelligence officials estimate that up to a half of them operate as spies.

According to Austrian, European, and U.S. intelligence and government officials, Vienna has become a base for Russian clandestine operations. Including financing and logistical support for murder, sabotage, and recruitment across Europe, as well as industrial espionage and influence operations. Tracking Western arms shipments to Kyiv in Poland, killing a Russian military helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine and was living in Spain, attacks on ammunition factories and civilian targets.

Some U.S. officials believe that Russia has become more aggressive in recent years and began targeting American personnel. In 2021, 20 U.S. Embassy staff, including CIA officers, based in Vienna, became ill with a mysterious condition known as the Havana Syndrome. The Russians possibly used acoustic or “directed energy” weapons.

How should the West respond to Russia’s spying activities after Russia has actually undertaken a hybrid war against the EU? The current response is weak, and every sign of weakness invites more aggression from Russia. 

The key is strengthening the sanctions against Russia, and implementing existing sanctions fully and effectively.

EU nations are now considering a Czech proposal for a ban on Russian diplomats travelling outside the country where they are posted.

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