Russian agents posing as embassy workers are infiltrating German politics and business circles, the intelligence service told dpa news agency, confirming a report by the Welt am Sonntag.
“The gathering of information in Germany is more important for the Russians than almost any other intelligence service," head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) Hans-Georg Maaßen told the paper.
Security sources said agents identified key staff working at the German parliament to gain access to sensitive information on the country's military, foreign and economic policy.
"The Russian agents analyze very closely who could be interesting for them," the head of the BfV's counterintelligence department Burkhard Even told the paper.
Particularly interesting for the Russians are those working for German politicians, institutes and ministries, he added.
Intimate knowledge of German energy policy, big business, Nato or the EU is what they are typically looking for, according to the reports.
Equipped with information about the targets, the agents then make friends with them, Even said, in order to tap them for information at a later date.
No money changes hands as a rule, but the agents often pay for their informant's food or drink and buy them small presents, the paper said.
The BfV believes up to one third of Russian embassy staff in Berlin have some kind of background in intelligence gathering and that spying activity has risen sharply since the latest parliament first convened in January.
Germany’s counterintelligence agency said it was astounded at the naivety of German informants, who are often surprised to find themselves accused of passing information to foreign intelligence in conspiratorial meetings, an act punishable under German law.
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