Suspected Russian spy released

June 28th, 2007  

Topic: Suspected Russian spy released

Budapest, June 25, 2007

Suspected Russian spy released

Austria was forced to release a suspected Russian spy in a military technology case last Thursday after the United Nations decided that he had diplomatic immunity. The alleged secret agent, named in the Austrian media as Vladimir V. Vozhzhov, was arrested in Gmunden near Salzburg in Upper Austria on 11 June. The Russian was suspected of attempting to obtain technical details of the Franco-German military helicopter project Eurocopter Tiger.
The Austrian Ministry of Justice confirmed last Thursday that Vozhzhov had been freed earlier in the day. Following his release Vozhzhov went to the Russian Embassy in Vienna. A spokesperson for the Embassy announced that he would leave for Moscow “in the near future”.
Russia was incensed by Vozhzhov’s arrest and demanded his immediate release. It also made it clear that his arrest would damage relations between the two countries. “The behaviour of the Austrian side is seen as an unfriendly act,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The Austrian Ambassador in Moscow Martin Vukovich was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to hear Russia’s protest.

Diplomatic immunity questioned
After Vozhzhov’s arrest, the United Nations and the Austrian Foreign Ministry investigated whether the official did in fact enjoy the diplomatic immunity that Russia asserted on his behalf. The UN subsequently confirmed that Vozhzhov enjoyed diplomatic immunity because he was accredited to the Russian delegation to the 50th session of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna between 6 and 15 June. When Moscow formally turned down a request from Austria to waive his diplomatic immunity last Wednesday, Austria had no option but to release him.
The UN Secretariat took the view that the alleged agent enjoyed diplomatic immunity for the duration of the conference on the whole territory of Austria. This opinion appears to conflict with the provisions of a treaty between the UN and Austria that participants in conferences at UN facilities in Austria have immunity during their journey there and back and whilst performing their functions. Vienna has informed the UN that Vozhzhov is no longer welcome to attend meetings at the UN’s facilities in Vienna.

Austrian airman in custody
A warrant officer in the Austrian Air Force Harald S., 51, of the 3rd Air Regiment stationed in Hörsching near Linz has also been arrested in connection with the case. He is reported to be technician who works closely with civilian firms in Germany. He is alleged to have supplied the Russians with data on the electronic development of the Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter project.
Austrian investigators are working on the assumption that Vozhzhov was one of the top agents of the Russian military intelligence organisation the GRU. Both Vozhzhov and Harald S. are thought to have been shadowed by counter-intelligence agents for several months before the arrests.

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