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Germany Arrests Russian For Allegedly Spying On European Space Program

An Ariane 5 rocket, with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope onboard, is launched from French Guiana on December 25, 2021.
An Ariane 5 rocket, with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope onboard, is launched from French Guiana on December 25, 2021.

German prosecutors say they have arrested a Russian scientist accused of spying for Moscow, alleging he passed on classified information about Europe's Ariane rocket program while working at a German university.

Federal prosecutors said on January 27 that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., was a scientific researcher at an unnamed university in the state of Bavaria and held "regular meetings" with a senior Russian intelligence officer stationed in Germany.

He was arrested in June 2021, they added.

The suspect "passed on information on research projects in the field of aerospace technology, in particular the various development stages of the European launcher Ariane," prosecutors said, referring to the Ariane program, which consists of a series of transportation rockets designed to shuttle heavy loads, including satellites, into space.

The announcement of the arrest comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the buildup of troops at Russia's border with Ukraine.

It is also the latest in a series of alleged cases of Russian spy activity in Germany, which is considered a major center for Russian intelligence operations.

In December, a court in Berlin convicted a Russian man of fatally shooting a former Chechen militant in Berlin on the Kremlin's orders in 2019.

The court ruled that the murder was an act of "retaliation" against the 40-year-old victim, an ethnic Chechen of Georgian nationality, for being a Kremlin opponent. The verdict sparked a diplomatic tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats by both countries.

With reporting by Der Spiegel, Reuters, and AFP
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