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Retired Austrian Officer Suspected Of Spying For Russia

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (left) and Defense Minister Mario Kunasek deliver a press statement in Vienna on November 9.

Austria says a recently retired military officer is suspected of having spied for Russia for almost 20 years, prompting Vienna to cancel a visit next month by Austria's foreign minister to Moscow.

"We demand transparent information from Russia," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on November 9, adding that the Russian diplomat currently in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

"If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union," he said.

Kurz was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April for allegedly planning a cyberattack on the world's chemical-weapons watchdog in The Hague.

"Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned," Kurz added.

Austria is one of the few European countries that maintains close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia's actions in Ukraine, and even after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Russia.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russia scheduled for December 2-3 due to the espionage case.

Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the IAEA, OSCE and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.

The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.

Based on reporting by Kronen Zeitung, Reuters, Kleine Zeitung, dpa, and Die Presse