German intelligence warns on intensifying Russian spy efforts


Germany’s domestic security agency on Tuesday warned against the risk of an “aggressive Russian espionage operation” as Moscow wages its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


Western sanctions against Russia and their support for Ukraine’s military efforts meant the Kremlin had an “increased interest” in information gathering, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said in its annual report.


“Russia’s war in Ukraine represents a new era for domestic security as well,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in the foreword to the report, picking up a term used by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to describe Germany’s more active foreign policy stance in the wake of the invasion.


“In times of war the leadership in the Kremlin relies on the work of the Russian intelligence services,” Faeser said.


“In future, a more clandestine and aggressive Russian espionage operation is to be expected as well as cyberspace activities originating from Russia,” the BfV said.


Russian intelligence services were trying to “bring new employees to Germany”, as well as pursuing or renewing activities with existing staff.


In mid-April, Berlin expelled a number of Russian diplomats over espionage concerns, prompting the tit-for-tat expulsion of 20 German diplomats from Moscow.


A month later, Russia put a limit of 350 on the number of German personnel allowed in Russia, in effect forcing hundreds of civil servants and local employees working for German institutions in Russia to leave the country.


Berlin swiftly retaliated, ordering four of Moscow’s five consulates in Germany to close.


While Moscow’s war had shaped the BfV’s counter-espionage work, the agency also named China as one of the four “main actors” spying on Germany.


Beijing was the “biggest threat in relation to economic and scientific espionage and foreign direct investments in Germany”.


“The structure, armament and training” of the German army were also on the agenda for Chinese intelligence services, the BfV said.


The other two main espionage threats were Turkey and Iran, while Faeser also pointed to North Korea as a country that was “heavily involved in intelligence operations” in Germany.


Both Iran and Turkey were focussed on individuals and groups considered to be part of the political opposition to the government, the BfV said.

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