Espionage?: Two Russian Ambassadors “Unnecessary”

Victims must leave Austria by March 19. You worked at the bilateral Russian embassy in Austria, not at the delegation to international organizations in Vienna. In the past, Austria has been very cautious about expelling Russian diplomats. This is due, among other things, to the impact on the Austrian representation in Moscow, which is severely understaffed.

Indeed, the Russian Foreign Ministry immediately announced a “response” to the “groundless” expulsion of the two diplomats. Austrian diplomats in Moscow are now expected to pack their bags, even if they haven't done anything comparable to the two Russian spies in Vienna.

Russian Embassy “outrageous”

The Russian Embassy in Vienna expressed “outrage” at Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg's (ÖVP) decision in a statement. “As in previous expulsion episodes, no evidence or even evidence of a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was presented.”

“This is a purely political decision by the Austrian authorities, which we categorically reject. There is no doubt that Moscow will respond decisively. “Vienna bears the sole responsibility for the further deterioration of bilateral relations,” it said.

The directory lists 60 Russian diplomats

With the current expulsion, Austria has already expelled eleven Russian diplomats since 2020. In February of the previous year, four ambassadors, including the Russian representative to international organizations in Vienna, had to return home.

In April 2022, the four ambassadors were expelled from the country after the brutal massacre in Putsha near Kiev became known. Even before the Russian invasion, a Russian diplomat had to leave Austria in August 2020 due to economic espionage.

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The Directory of Diplomatic and Diplomatic Corps maintained by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently lists 60 diplomats at bilateral Russian embassies in Austria, 56 accredited to the Russian Embassy in Vienna and four to the Russian Embassy in Salzburg.

Ministry: Nothing to do with “Falter” article

The Foreign Ministry has denied that the current expulsions have anything to do with a report in the Viennese weekly “Falter” about Russian President Vladimir Putin's contacts in Austria. The allegations made in the statement against FPÖ politicians prompted ÖVP General Secretary Christian Stocker to hold a press conference on Tuesday. The FPÖ rejected all the disputed allegations.

NEOS calls for closure of cultural institute

In an initial reaction on Wednesday evening, NEOS called for further expulsions of Russian diplomats. Foreign policy spokesman and EU frontrunner Helmut Brandstätter pointed out in a broadcast that other EU countries had “massively withdrawn diplomatic and technical staff from the country” after Putin's attack.

Hungary and Austria are the only ones not to do this, “even though it's an open secret that a third of the embassy staff is likely to be spies,” Brandstatter said. The lack of vehemence towards Russia is reflected in the fact that the Russian Cultural Institute in Vienna has not yet closed, despite hosting only Putin representative Mikhail Svitkoj earlier in the week.

NEOS MP Stephanie Crisper also wants to discuss it in a standing subcommittee of the Home Affairs Committee on Thursday. “How can someone from Putin's inner circle enter Austria unmolested?” referring to Schwitkoj. It was an “intolerable situation, and spies in general were of the opinion that they could operate unmolested in Austria”.

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