Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported, without specifying its sources, that an officer from the country's Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism is under investigation over possible espionage and the passing of classified information to Russia. According to the media outlet, if the investigation, which has been underway for a year now, proves the person guilty, he or she will face up to 10 years in prison.
Austrian officials have not commented on the report yet. The Russian Embassy in Austria has declined to comment on the news.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism is an arm of the Austrian police that is tasked with running domestic intelligence and protecting constitutional bodies of the state.
The report comes hot on the heels of the espionage scandal that erupted between Austrian and Russia — Vienna has accused one of its retired colonels of spying for Moscow since the 1990s. According to reports by various Austrian media outlets, the suspect has already been arrested and confessed tohis crimes. There has been no official confirmation of this information so far.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed Austria's approach to handling the scandal, bemoaning the use of 'megaphone diplomacy'. He said that unfounded accusations of espionage are unacceptable and announced that the Austrian ambassador to Russia had been summoned in light of the recent allegations.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen urged not to dramatise the situation surrounding the two countries in light of ercent events, noting that a proper investigation must be concluded first.