Germany arrests intel official suspected of passing secrets to Russia

Federal prosecutors say suspect relayed info to Russian intelligence services; German spy chief warns of Moscow’s ‘unscrupulousness and willingness to use violence’

This file photo from July 8, 2013, shows the BND monitoring base in Bad Aibling, near Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)
This file photo from July 8, 2013, shows the BND monitoring base in Bad Aibling, near Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

BERLIN — An official for Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency has been arrested on suspicion of treason for allegedly passing state secrets to Russia, officials said Thursday, as tensions soar between Moscow and Berlin.

Ties between Russia and Germany have deteriorated dramatically since the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, and German officials are on high alert for Russian espionage.

The man — identified only as Carsten L. — “transmitted information that he had obtained in the course of his professional activities to Russian intelligence services,” federal prosecutors said.

He was arrested on Wednesday in Berlin, with authorities searching his workplace and apartment and that of one other person.

“Investigations were conducted in close cooperation with the BND,” the statement added.

The suspect allegedly passed the information to Russia this year. He was remanded in custody after appearing before a judge.

BND president Bruno Kahl said the agency would not comment further on the case for now, as “restraint and discretion are very important.”

“With Russia, we are dealing with an actor whose unscrupulousness and willingness to use violence have to be reckoned with,” he said.

“Every detail of this operation that becomes public means an advantage for this adversary in its intention to harm Germany.”

Bruno Kahl, head of the German Federal Intelligence Service, arrives for a public hearing at the parliamentary control committee of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, November 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Since the start of the Ukraine war, concerns about Russian spying in Germany have increased.

Last month, a German man was handed a suspended sentence for passing information to Russian intelligence services while working as a reserve officer for the German army.

And in October, Germany’s cybersecurity chief, Arne Schoenbohm, was sacked after a television satire show broadcast allegations that he had ties to Russian intelligence services.

Germany had seen spying cases with links to Russia even before the Ukraine war, as have other European countries.

In 2016, a German former intelligence agent who spied for both the Russian secret services and the CIA was jailed for eight years.

The Ukraine conflict has heightened concerns in Berlin not only about Russian espionage plots, but also attempted sabotage of critical infrastructure and cyberattacks.

The rail network in the north of the country was temporarily paralyzed in October by what operator Deutsche Bahn called “sabotage,” with some officials pointing the finger at Russia.

Important communications cables were cut at two sites, forcing rail services to be halted for three hours and causing travel chaos for thousands of passengers.

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