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Germany arrests two suspected Russian spies accused of scouting US military facilities for sabotage

Berlin — German authorities say they have arrested two people suspected of spying for Russia. The suspects, identified as German-Russian nationals, are accused of scouting targets for possible attacks, including U.S. military facilities in Germany, the Federal Prosecutor General of Karlsruhe said in a statement released Thursday.

The arrests, made by police in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth, come amid high tensions between Russia and the West, more than two years after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

The position of the alleged spies is accused by Germany of undermining the military support that Germany has provided to Ukraine.

The individuals – identified by the German prosecutor as Dieter S. and Alexander J. – are said to have ties to a Russian intelligence service and are accused of collecting information about potential targets for sabotage operations.

Dieter S. is accused of having been in contact with a person associated with a Russian secret service since October 2023, discussing plans for attacks on military infrastructure and industrial sites in Germany. He reportedly personally explored some of the targeted sites and collected photos and videos.

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The detainees also investigated potential targets for attacks, including U.S. military facilities in Germany, the prosecutor said.

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A 2022 file image shows U.S. and German flags in front of an armored fighting vehicle at the Grafenwoehr military training area in Bavaria, Germany, where U.S. forces trained Ukrainian forces in the use of U.S. weapons.

Reuters


Dieter S. is said to have expressed his willingness to carry out explosives and arson at military and industrial locations in Germany. The preparation consisted of collecting information about potential targets, with which Alexander J. assisted since March 2024, and sharing the information with his Russian contact.

The homes and workplaces of both suspects were searched. An additional arrest warrant was issued for Dieter S. on suspicion of links to the foreign terrorist organization DPR – the Russian-backed de facto authority in the occupied eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, which calls itself the Donetsk People’s Republic.

According to an investigation by German magazine Der Spiegel, the two suspects spied on military locations, including US military facilities in Grafenwoehr, Bavaria. Grabfenwoehr is a key training site, where US forces help train Ukrainian soldiers in the use of US-made Abrams tanks.

The arrests have raised concerns about the extent of Russian espionage activities in Germany. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser condemned the suspected espionage as a “particularly serious matter” and stressed Germany’s commitment to supporting Ukraine despite attempts at intimidation.

Suspected agents with ties to Russia arrested
Nancy Faeser, the German Minister of the Interior, gives a statement in Saarbraken about two suspected agents with ties to Russia who were arrested in Bavaria on April 18, 2024.

Harald Tittel/Photo Alliance/Getty


Politicians have called for a decisive response to the threat posed by Russian agents operating in Germany. Konstantin von Notz, deputy leader of the Green Party and head of the intelligence monitoring committee in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, said a response would be necessary if the allegations prove true.

The arrests in Bavaria mirrored incidents in Poland in March 2023, where authorities said they had dismantled a Russian spy network aimed at sabotaging Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

The suspects included persons with a criminal background and refugees from eastern Ukraine. Polish officials said Russia’s GRU military intelligence service had encouraged the individuals to install cameras along railway lines used to transport weapons and other supplies to Ukraine. Another plan appeared to involve acts of sabotage, including the derailment of trains by Russian agents.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Bundeswehr has regularly received reports of suspicious drone activity over barracks where Ukrainian soldiers receive training in the country, and the number of these incidents has risen sharply.

There were 172 reports of suspected drones flying around the barracks throughout 2022, military officials said. In 2023 there were 446 reported sightings.

The Russian government had not responded on Friday to the accusations against the two people in Germany. The country’s ambassador was summoned to Berlin by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the incident.

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