Based on the principle of reciprocity, Moscow will send an Austrian diplomat to his homeland. Austrian Ambassador to Moscow Johannes Aigner was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on August 24 after Vienna’s unwarranted decision to strip the Russian diplomat of his accreditation. He strongly protested against the announcement of a persona non grata of an employee of the Russian diplomatic mission in Vienna. Vienna decided to expel a Russian diplomat from the country, saying that his activities are contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, TASS reminds. The Russian Embassy in Austria stressed that such a decision is outrageous, and Moscow’s mirror reaction will not belong in coming. In addition, Russian diplomats stressed that Vienna’s actions are detrimental to constructive Russian-Austrian relations.
Austria for the first time decided to declare persona non grata of the Russian diplomat. An employee of the Russian diplomatic mission in Vienna is obliged to leave the country by September 1, 2020. The expulsion of the Russian diplomat is connected with the case of an Austrian citizen. He worked in the economic field in Vienna.
An Austrian citizen has been detained on charges of spying for Russia. He named one of the Russian diplomats as his curator.
The Russian refused to testify in the case, citing diplomatic protocol. Vienna then announced that the diplomat had been stripped of his diplomatic status. Vienna described the incident as a serious breach of diplomatic protocol.
There are several scandals in the history of relations between Vienna and Moscow. In 2018, Austria suspected retired Austrian Colonel Martin M. of spying for Russia. He was arrested on 30 November and remanded in Salzburg prison. Allegedly, since 1993, he has been transmitting information about Austrian military aviation and art systems to Russian military intelligence. In the recruitment of an Austrian in 1987, a Russian named as a GRU officer, Igor Seytsev, was suspected. He was put on the international wanted list in 2019. The retired colonel of the Austrian army was charged with espionage. In June 2020, a jury found him guilty of disclosing state secrets and intentionally disclosing military secrets to the detriment of Austria. Martin M. was sentenced to three years in prison. Since he had been given a year and a half in pre-trial detention, it was decided that he had been released on parole, taking into account the serving of half of his sentence.
Since November 2018, the Office for Countering Economic Crimes and Corruption has been investigating an employee of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism of Austria (Counterintelligence). He is suspected of passing on state secrets to Russia.
In June 2007, a Roscosmos employee suspected of espionage was arrested in Gmunden, Upper Austria, and arrived in Vienna for the anniversary session of the UN Space Commission.
It was Vladimir Vzhzharov, deputy head of Roscosmos’ international cooperation department. Austrian police claimed that the Russian was detained while trying to obtain classified information from an Austrian soldier. The Vienna Land Court decided to release the Roscosmos employee.
And in July 2006, Peter Wilhartitz, a former employee of the Austrian firm Plansee, specializing in the production of hard metal and alloy products, was detained at Innsbruck airport. He was accused of industrial espionage in favor of the Russian company Polem.In 2007, the Innsbruck court found him guilty, but a year later the case was reopened due to “insufficient justification of the prosecution”.
The biggest scandal in relations between Moscow and Vienna was the unsuccessful attempt to kidnap a defector from the USSR Nikolay Artamonov, who was the son-in-law of the commander of the Soviet Navy Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, whose name was named a heavy aircraft carrier, sold in 2014 to India.
In 1959, the commander of the destroyer Baltic Fleet Nikolai Artamonov fled to Sweden and then settled in the United States. In December 1975, the staff of the First General Directorate (external intelligence) of the KGB of the USSR was able to lure him to Vienna, and then, having euthanized, tried to move him to Czechoslovakia. This operation was led by Oleg Kalugin, head of the foreign intelligence department of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. But Artamonov died suddenly from an overdose of sleeping pills. Kalugin was charged with the premeditated murder of Artamonov. Oleg Kalugin has been living in the United States since 1995 and leads tours to the New York Museum of Espionage.
In 2002, Oleg Kalugin was convicted in absentia in Russia for treason and deprived of the general’s rank and state awards.
In 2020, Slovakia decided to expel Russian diplomats. A Russian embassy employee was also expelled by Norway in August.