Espionage in Vienna: Russian Spy Exposed

PeopleOther ♦ Published: December 19, 2022; 19:50 ♦ (Vindobona)

A Greek citizen of Russian descent allegedly spied on state secrets for Russia in Vienna. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution unmasked the 39-year-old son of a former diplomat as a Russian spy. During the house search, the police also found listening devices, as well as other compromising materials.

The spy allegedly obtained information on foreign policy, overall social as well as the security situation in Vienna, and passed it on to Russia's embassy. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / C.Stadler/Bwag / CC BY-SA 4.0 (

The suspect allegedly worked as a spy for Russian military intelligence GRU, according to the Interior Ministry (BMI). The suspect is at large, but further dispositions have been ordered by the judiciary.

According to the State Protection and Intelligence Directorate (DSN), the suspect is the son of a former Russian intelligence agent who was stationed as a diplomat in Germany and Austria during his active service. The 39-year-old is accused of spying for the Russian intelligence service. He is said to have received special military training in Russia for this purpose.

The DSN investigation was conducted on behalf of the Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office. The 39-year-old was in contact with diplomats and intelligence officers from various countries and was in Moscow shortly before and during the military invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. Specifically, the suspect is accused of betraying state secrets.

The suspect does not and has not had much official employment in the past. Nevertheless, in the period from 2018 to the beginning of 2022, he was able to make a total of 65 trips to other countries within Europe, as well as to Russia, Belarus, Turkey and Georgia, and acquire several properties in Vienna, Russia and Greece.

Conspiratorial locations in the urban area of Vienna were used for the exchange of information, and diplomatic personnel of the Russian Federation was also identified in close temporal and local connection to these locations. The handover locations are known or recognizable only to the sender and the recipient through agreements or usually inconspicuous markings and are thus protected from discovery by uninitiated persons.

During the search of the suspect's properties, a signal detector capable of detecting wiretapping devices and hidden cameras, as well as a flak suit, were among the items found. Among other things, cell phones, laptops and tablets were seized, on which a total of ten million files were analyzed.

Regarding the suspicion of espionage, DSN Director Omar Haijawi-Pirchner said, as reported by ORF, "The suspect may have obtained information from Austria to assess reactions to the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. But the matter also went beyond that." Haijawi does not want to give details, but he does not rule out further investigations. "The specific final report to the prosecutor's office concerns one person. All relevant findings are available and, if the DSN perceives new facts, could lead to further investigations."

The current investigation result is, on the one hand, a signal to Russia that it should not exaggerate its espionage activities in Vienna and, on the other hand, it is also a signal to its Western partners that Austria is very much involved in counterespionage.

Austria is generally a potential target for espionage because of its location, DSN chief Haijawi said, according to ORF. In addition, he said, it is the seat of many international organizations, and the legal situation also makes Austria an attractive place for foreign intelligence services to stay. In addition, the penalties are low compared to other countries.