A Briton suspected of spying for Russia in exchange for money has been arrested in Germany, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday, in a case that is expected to fuel tensions between Berlin and Moscow.
The suspect identified only as David S., who until the time of his arrest was working as a local employee at the British Embassy, ”transmitted at least once documents he had acquired as part of his professional activities to a representative of the Russian secret service “.
“The accused received in return a cash payment of an unspecified amount,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
He said David S. was arrested Tuesday in the eastern city of Potsdam under an arrest warrant issued on August 4. His home and workplace were searched.
The suspect has reportedly spied since November 2020 “at the latest”.
His arrest is the result of a joint operation by the German and British authorities. The British Embassy in Berlin declined to comment on the case and referred the inquiries to the Home Office.
London Metropolitan Police said the suspect was a 57-year-old British national and the investigation was carried out by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command and its German counterparts.
He said his alleged offenses were related to “intelligence agent activity” under German law and that German authorities would retain primacy over the investigation.
David S. is due to appear later Wednesday before an investigating judge who will decide whether he will be remanded in custody.
Series of scandals
Germany has arrested a number of people in recent years on charges of spying for Russia, but the capture of a citizen of a closely allied country is highly unusual.
In June, German police arrested a Russian scientist working at a German university accused of working for the Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest.
He is also suspected of having accepted cash in exchange for his services.
And German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German suspected of passing on parliament’s plans to the Russian secret service in 2017.
Moscow is at odds with a number of Western capitals after a build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine’s borders and a series of spy scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.
In June, Italy said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings from Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe must protect itself from Russian “interference”.
The move came after an Italian naval captain was caught red-handed by police selling confidential military documents from his computer to a Russian embassy official.
The leaders of nine Eastern European countries condemned in May what they called Russian “aggressive acts”, citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” that allegedly targeted the Czech Republic.
Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague, but Russia has called accusations of its involvement “absurd” and responded with tacit expulsions.
Russian security forces last month said they arrested the Estonian consul in St. Petersburg for allegedly receiving classified documents.
The latest spy case also comes at a time when relations between Russia and Germany are very strained on several fronts, including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was treated in Berlin after nearly poisoning. deadly.
Relations between London and Moscow are at their lowest since former spy Sergei Skripal’s attempted poisoning in British Salisbury in 2018.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in either case.
The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has also endeavored to maintain a sanctions regime against Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyber attacks and cyber espionage on its soil.
Despite the friction, Berlin continued with plans to complete the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is expected to double Russia’s natural gas supply to Germany.