Munich, 7 August 1998 (RFE/RL) - A leading German newspaper says that according to a secret government report there are at least 150 Russian spies operating in Germany.
The newspaper, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, said today the spies' operations are detailed in a 36-page report by Germany's internal security agency that was sent to the office of Chancellor Helmut Kohl last year.
A spokesman for the federal Interior Ministry said today it was not government policy to comment on espionage operations. But he said it was what he called "common knowledge" that espionage continued despite the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. He recalled that five Russian diplomats were expelled from Norway in March for espionage. Russia responded by expelling two Norwegians.
The spokesman declined to comment on suggestions in the newspaper report that the German government had not been sufficiently active against Russian espionage operations because of the friendship between Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The "Suddeutsche Zeitung," published in Munich, is known to have good contacts within Germany's intelligence community and regularly publishes reports about the internal problems of the foreign intelligence service, although it does not comment on any actual operations.
According to the newspaper, the secret report focuses particularly on the military branch of Russian intelligence, the GRU. It says Germany remains the main target for Russian intelligence operations in Europe because of its close connections with the United States. Apart from military intelligence, the Russians are said to be interested in high technology in industry, computer technology, micro-electronics and gene technology.
The report identifies 150 Russian spies said to be active in Germany and also lists 80 in France and 35 in England. There are also said to be around 100 in Austria.
According to the newspaper, the secret report says Russia's intelligence agents are based not only in embassies and trade missions but also in commercial joint ventures. The number of Russian-German joint ventures has jumped from 20 to more than 3,000 since the collapse of communism in Moscow. The secret report is said to claim that at least 60 Russian intelligence agents have posts in these commercial joint ventures.
The secret report is also said to claim that Russia has reactivated many of its agents in the former east Germany, who went underground after the reunification of Germany.
The report says as well that Russia continues to use traditional methods for infiltrating agents, such as providing them with false identifications and false papers to ease their entry into Germany. It says that in more than 460 cases the German authorities have refused travel permits on the advice of German security.
Germany's own spy chiefs have frequently warned both the government and the public that Russian espionage continues despite the end of the Cold War. The counter-intelligence agency warned in a report published in 1995 that spies were on the staff of Russian trade missions and joint ventures in Germany and said that at least 56 were in Berlin, which in a few years will again become the German capital. The present chief of the counter-intelligence service, Peter Frisch, has described Russian economic espionage in Germany as "considerable" and said the goal is to improve the Russian economy by stealing Western industrial and electronic secrets.
The problem of Russian intelligence operations in Germany was discussed when Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited Boris Yeltsin in November last year. In a television interview afterwards Kohl confirmed the discussion, but said it had not been an important part of the talks.
Several reports have appeared in the German media quoting anonymous officials as saying the counter-intelligence service feels it does not get sufficient support from the government. One claim is that in 1995 the service wanted to expel more than 100 alleged Russian agents, but the authorities refused to do so.
Today's "Suddeutsche Zeitung" story about the secret report by the counter-intelligence service appears as another espionage case is about to go to trial in Germany. The accused is a 47-year-old man who worked at an aircraft factory. It is alleged that he passed sensitive information for around 12 years. He is said to have told interrogators he thought he was working for the intelligence services of communist east Germany and did not realize the information was going to Moscow. It is alleged that after the KGB was dissolved his controlling officer passed the information on to its successor organization.
Despite the allegations, cooperation continues between the German and Russian intelligence agencies. The new chief of the Russian federal Security service, Vladimir Putin, is said by German newspapers to have asked German intelligence earlier this week for assistance in combating terrorism. Germany is said to have responded by sending its counter-intelligence chief Peter Frisch to Moscow with a group of experts.
The German press reports noted that Putin had once been a KGB agent in the east German city of Dresden. He was appointed head of the Federal Security Service late last month.