German-Russian Nationals Arrested for Spying in Bavaria

Two alleged spies suspected of planning to sabotage German military aid for Ukraine have been arrested in Bavaria, southern Germany.

Prosecutors say the two men, described as dual German-Russian nationals, were detained in Bayreuth on suspicion of spying for Russia. They are accused of scouting potential targets, including US military facilities based in Germany.

The main suspect, Dieter S, is implicated in a series of offenses, including plotting an explosion, arson, and maintaining contact with Russian intelligence. He is also alleged to have fought for a Russian proxy armed force in occupied eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2016.

The second suspect, identified as Alexander J, is accused of assisting Dieter S since last month in identifying potential targets for attack. Alexander J was due to appear in court on Thursday.

Germany has been the second-largest donor of military aid to Ukraine, following the United States, with approximately €28 billion (£24 billion) allocated since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

According to prosecutors, Dieter S is accused of discussing potential sabotage operations in Germany with his Russian contact since October last year, aiming to undermine Germany’s support for Ukraine. Allegations include preparing explosive and arson attacks, particularly targeting military and industrial infrastructure. Dieter S allegedly scouted potential targets, including US military facilities, capturing photos and videos and sharing the information with his Russian contact.

Reports indicate that a US Army facility at Grafenwöhr in Bavaria was among the sites under surveillance. Last year, the US deployed numerous Abrams battle tanks to Bavaria for Ukrainian troops to train on at Grafenwöhr and another base at Hohenfels before the tanks were sent to the front line in Ukraine.

German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described the arrests as “another significant investigative success” in the ongoing efforts to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sabotage and spy networks.

CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP A US soldier stands on a US Army M1A2 Abrams tank during the Combined Resolve 18 exercise at the Hohenfels trainings area, southern Germany, on May 11, 2023
Among the targets for the alleged spies were US bases in Bavaria where Ukrainian soldiers have trained on Abrams battle tanks

Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, currently visiting Kyiv on an undisclosed trip, emphasized on Thursday that he was present “at a critical moment when Ukraine requires all possible support in its struggle for freedom.”

The German government in Berlin is leading an initiative to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz remarked on Wednesday that EU nations should explore avenues to assist Ukraine with additional air defense systems, particularly Patriot systems. Germany has already supplied Ukraine with two Patriot air defense systems and has committed to providing a third.

The recent arrests in Bavaria are part of a series of notable espionage cases.

Last summer, a German national employed by the military procurement agency was apprehended in Koblenz on suspicion of passing information to Russian diplomats in Bonn and Berlin.

In a separate controversy, the former chief executive of a collapsed German payment processing company, Wirecard, is believed to have fled to Moscow following the company’s demise. Jan Marsalek is now suspected of being a Russian agent who recruited officials in Austria to share confidential information.

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