German intelligence officials are investigating two senior officials from the Ministry of Economy under suspicion of working as spies on behalf of Russia, German newspaper Die Zeit reported on 31 August. The officials were responsible for guiding Germany’s energy policy.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), responsible for counterintelligence in Germany, opened an investigation after other members of the ministry complained about two of their colleagues.
The two officials are reported to have aroused suspicions by defending pro-Russian positions and criticising the decisions of Olaf Scholz’s government on energy policy, in particular the decision to suspend the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
A preliminary investigation of the two suspects revealed that one of the employees conducted a study visit to Russia, as well as an “emotional closeness” to the country, Die Zeit stated. As of yet, the German authorities have no tangible proof that the officials were involved in spying on behalf of Russia.
This is not the first case of suspected Russian espionage in Germany in recent years. As one of the most reliant economies on Russian gas supplies, there are a great deal of vested interests within German companies and even some ministries in favour of preserving economic links with Russia.
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Germany’s former chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, sits on the board of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and was heavily involved in lobbying on behalf of the abortive Nord Stream 2 project.
Last year, Germany sentenced a former employee of a cybersecurity company to a two-year suspended prison service for having sent data from the German Chamber of Deputies to Russia. In April, a Russian scientist was convicted of spying on Europe’s Ariane Space Programme on behalf of Moscow.