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Retired Austrian Army Colonel Found Guilty Of Spying For Russia

Austria's capital, Vienna, home to multiple international organizations, is known as a European espionage hub.

An Austrian court has sentenced a retired army colonel to three years in prison after convicting him of spying for Russia's military intelligence service (GRU) for more than 25 years.

But the 71-year-old officer, who has not been named and whose trial was held behind closed doors, was released for time served.

A jury in Salzburg on June 9 found the retired colonel guilty of disclosing state secrets. Specifically, the court found the man guilty of operating a secret intelligence operation against Austria, betraying state secrets, and the crime of deliberately revealing military secrets.

The charges carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison but he was sentenced to just three and released for time served since his arrest in November 2018.

According to the indictment, from 1992 to September 2018 the defendant provided military secrets to Russia in exchange for 280,000 euros ($317,000).

Defense lawyers argued he had not revealed any government or military secrets. Instead, they said he only passed on publicly available information. They said the amount he received was 220,000 euros.

"The court took into account the recognition of the facts, the [defendant's] advanced years and the absence of previous convictions as mitigating factors. The court came to the conclusion that the defendant no longer poses a threat," a court spokesman said.

At the time of the man's arrest, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he knew "nothing about the issue."

Austria is one of the few European countries that has maintained close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia's actions in Ukraine and the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on the Kremlin.

Austria's capital, Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.

The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, Der Standard, and Krone Zeitung
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