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CRIME

German man tried for spying on parliament for Russians

The German employee of a security company went on trial Wednesday for allegedly passing on floor plans of parliament buildings to Russian secret services, a case that has further frayed ties between Berlin and Moscow.

German man tried for spying on parliament for Russians
The defendant, Jens F., hold a newspaper over his face as he stands next to his attorney, Friedrich Humke, in the Berlin Chamber of Justice on September 1st, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

The suspect named only as Jens F., 56, is accused of handing over a CD-Rom with more than 300 files of floor plans of buildings used by the German Bundestag to the military attache of the Russian embassy in 2017.

The military attache in post at that time is believed to be an employee of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. The suspect meanwhile worked for a security company contracted by the Bundestag.

Reading out the charge sheet before a court in Berlin, prosecutor Frank Stuppi accused the man of espionage.

The suspect did not make any statements at the opening of the trial.

The court revealed that a plea bargain had been offered with a jail term of between 20 months to two years, but that was not taken up by the suspect.

The defence had advised Jens F. not to plead guilty, arguing there was no proof that he had transmitted the information to the Russians.

READ ALSO: Briton accused of spying on Germany for Russia remanded in custody

According to defence lawyer Friedrich Humke, the prosecution’s case is based on the life of his client — who was once an army officer in former communist East Germany.

Prosecutor Stuppi acknowledged that other people could have had access to the floor plans, but argued that the indictment was based on the route that the files had taken.

Key indicators were when the files were saved and how they were stored, he said.

The court is expected to hear the case until the end of September.

Tensions

Without citing its sources, Spiegel magazine reported that the suspect was a former officer of the 9th tank division of the East German army.

Between 1984 and 1990, he also worked for the feared Stasi secret police informally, said Spiegel.

The case comes at a time of particularly rocky ties between Berlin and Moscow over a series of espionage cases, the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as well as repeated cyberattacks against the West.

The West has accused the Russian government of poisoning Navalny with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August 2020, which the Kremlin denies.


Relations between Germany and Russia have become increasingly strained amid suspected espionage and the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Alexander Zemlianichenko

Navalny was treated in Berlin before he returned to Moscow several months later. Upon landing at the airport, Navalny was imprisoned, sparking demands from the West for his release.

In June, German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow.

READ ALSO:

Germany has also 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.

In another high profile case before a German court, a Russian man is on trial over the assassination of a former Chechen commander in a Berlin park, allegedly on Russia’s orders.

Moscow has denied being behind such actions.

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GERHARD SCRHÖDER

German ex-Chancellor Schröder leaves Rosneft board

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder will leave the board of directors of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the company said on Friday, following public pressure.

German ex-Chancellor Schröder leaves Rosneft board

Rosneft said that Schröder and Nord Stream 2 CEO Matthias Warnig informed the company that it was “impossible to extend their powers on the board of directors” a day after Germany stripped Schröder of official perks over ties with Russia.

Rosneft praised their “strategic vision” and “significant contribution to the international business of the company”.

“Their role in the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in Russia and Germany, aimed at increasing the efficiency of the Germany economy and its industry and the well-being of its citizens, is invaluable,” Rosneft added.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over links to Russia

Schröder, who was Germany’s leader from 1998 to 2005, had been slammed for refusing to quit his posts with Russian energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The German Bundestag’s decision to strip Schröder of an office and paid staff on Thursday came after a long effort to get him to turn his back on President Vladimir Putin. 

“The coalition parliamentary groups have drawn consequences from the behaviour of former chancellor and lobbyist Gerhard Schröder in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the parliament decided.

“The office of the former chancellor shall be suspended,” it said, noting that Schröder “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

The cost of Schröder’s office and employees was estimated to cost taxpayers around €400,000 per year. 

EU lawmakers separately called in a non-binding resolution on the bloc to slap sanctions on Schröder and other Europeans who refuse to give up lucrative board seats at Russian companies.

Schröder, 78, is due to join the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in June.

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