Austria orders arrest of Russian in colonel spying case

Igor Egorovich ZaitsevImage copyright Bundesministerium
Image caption Austria has issued an arrest warrant for Igor Egorovich Zaytsev.

Austria has issued an arrest warrant for a Russian military officer it says recruited a colonel who allegedly spent 30 years spying for Moscow.

Police in Salzburg said European and international warrants had been issued for the officer, named by officials as 65-year-old Igor Egorovich Zaytsev.

He is suspected of having been the colonel’s handler from the 1990s until the colonel’s arrest last year.

The colonel allegedly provided Russia with information on Austria’s army.

In a statement, Austrian police said: “The GRU handler is suspected of inducing a retired 70-year-old colonel of the Austrian army to carry out an intelligence operation to the detriment of Austria, to reveal state secrets and to deliberately give up military secrets.”

Police allege that the colonel earned hundreds of thousands of euros in payments for information, including comprehensive details about Austria’s armed forces and their weapons systems.

Last year, Austrian Defence Minister Mario Kunasek said the spying case had come to light thanks to the help of another European intelligence agency.

Austrian media reported that the colonel had been extremely professional and had worked in the army’s control centre in the state of Salzburg.

He reportedly kept in touch with his Russian handler using sophisticated equipment.

The colonel had initially co-operated with police. However reports say he has recently stayed silent over the findings from an investigation into the case.

The case sparked tensions between the two countries last year with Austria and Russia summoning each other’s diplomats over the issue.

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