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RUSSIA

Russia seeks Opel compensation from GM

Russia's biggest bank Sberbank said Friday it has made a proposal to General Motors seeking compensation for losses it incurred after the US auto giant dropped plans to sell its Opel unit.

Russia seeks Opel compensation from GM
Photo: DPA

German Gref, Sberbank chief executive and a former Russian trade minister, said the bank would go to court unless GM agrees to cover the expenses incurred by the Russian state-owned bank in talks to buy GM’s European unit Opel.

“We have formulated all the expenses now and forwarded to the company a proposal on voluntary compensation of the costs,” Ria-Novosti news agency quoted Gref as saying.

“If it is not accepted, then we will seek the compensation through legal proceedings. We have sustained serious losses,” Gref added without elaborating.

Sberbank chief executive said last month his bank was weighing legal action against GM. Russia felt cheated after GM in November scrapped plans to sell a 55-percent stake in Opel to Canadian auto parts maker Magna and Sberbank, despite a preliminary deal reached after months of talks.

“Nine months of talks, 9,000 initialed pages of the contract had been ready for signing,” Gref said according to Interfax. “And two days before the deal GM abandoned it.”

Russian officials had hoped the deal would be a chance to boost the country’s ailing car industry and obtain top European automotive technologies and expertise.

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RUSSIA

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow

German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow, prosecutors said on Monday, in a case that risks further inflaming bilateral tensions.

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow
Vladimir Putin. Photo: dpa/AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., had been taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of “working for a Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest”.

Ilnur N. was employed until the time of his arrest as a research assistant for a natural sciences and technology department at the unnamed German university.

German investigators believe he met at least three times with a member of Russian intelligence between October 2020 and this month. On two occasions he allegedly “passed on information from the university’s domain”.

He is suspected of accepting cash in exchange for his services.

German authorities searched his home and workplace in the course of the arrest.

The suspect appeared before a judge on Saturday who remanded him in custody.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Neither the German nor the Russian government made any immediate comment on the case.

However Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Italy this month said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needed to
protect itself from Russian “interference”. 

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police while selling confidential military documents leaked from his computer to a Russian embassy official.

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The leaders of nine eastern European nations last month condemned what they termed Russian “aggressive acts” citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as “absurd” and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the scene of ongoing fighting between pro-Russia separatists and local forces.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks on its soil.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that completely paralysed the computer network of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week said Germany was expecting to be the target of Russian disinformation in the run-up to its general election in September, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

Russia denies being behind such activities.

Despite international criticism, Berlin has forged ahead with plans to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.

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