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CRIME

Germany spy passed Ariane rocket details to Russia, prosecutors say

A Russian scientist working at a German university who was arrested last year for spying for Russia shared information about Europe's Ariane space rocket programme, prosecutors said Thursday.

Ariane space rocket
The Ariane space rocket, details of which were allegedly passed onto Russia by the spy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Photo | Frank T. Koch / Hill Media GmbH

The accused, identified only as Ilnur N., has been charged with suspected secret service activity, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Ilnur N. was working at a Bavarian university when he was contacted by Russian foreign intelligence service SVR in the autumn of 2019, they allege.

He “passed on information on research projects in the field of aerospace technology, in particular the various development stages of the European launcher Ariane”, they said.

The European Space Agency’s Ariane programme consists of a series of transportation rockets designed to ferry heavy loads including satellites into space.

According to prosecutors, Ilnur N. held “regular meetings” from late November 2019 onwards with the senior officer of Russia’s foreign intelligence service stationed in Germany.

He allegedly received 2,500 euros ($2,800) in cash in exchange for the information he shared, which also included details about his scientific research at the unnamed Bavarian university.

Ilnur N. was arrested last June on suspicion of spying for Moscow.

Prosecutors said he worked as a research assistant at the university’s natural sciences and technology department.

The case comes at a time of heightened tensions between Germany and Russia, as the West fears Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is in a muddle over Russia – and it only has itself to blame

Germany has seen a string of suspected cases of Russian espionage on its soil recently.

In October 2021, a German man was handed a two-year suspended sentence for passing on floor plans of parliament buildings to Russian secret services while employed by a security company.

In August, a former employee of the British embassy in Berlin was arrested on suspicion of having passed on documents to Russian intelligence.

Germany has also repeatedly accused Russia of cyber espionage.

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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

German ex-chancellor Schröder says he won’t join Gazprom board

Germany's former chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said he will not be joining the supervisory board of Gazprom, after a row over his ties to Russian energy giants.

German ex-chancellor Schröder says he won't join Gazprom board

“I gave up on the nomination to the supervisory board of Gazprom some time ago. I have also communicated this to the company,” he wrote in a post on online network Linkedin on Tuesday. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to huge public pressure in Germany for Schröder to turn his back on President Vladimir Putin and to sever his ties with Russia’s biggest energy companies.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who like Schröder is from the Social Democratic Party, has also repeatedly and publicly urged the former leader to give up his Russian jobs.

Fed up with Schröder’s attitude, the German parliament last Thursday decided to strip him of perks, including an office and paid staff accorded to him as a former chancellor.

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

That same day, EU lawmakers separately called in a non-binding resolution for sanctions to be slapped on him if he refused to give up on lucrative board seats at Russian companies.

A day later, Russian energy group Rosneft said Schröder will be leaving its board.

Schröder, 78, had been due to join Gazprom’s supervisory board in June – a job that he has now finally said he will not accept.

Schröder, Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as unjustified, but said that dialogue must continue with Moscow.

Gazprom is behind the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which has been halted by Scholz in one of the West’s first responses to the war in Ukraine.

Schröder himself signed off on the first Nord Stream in his final weeks in office.

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