Germany sues Russian space espionage scientist News

German prosecutors claim that the accused shared with Moscow information about the European Arian missile program.

A Russian scientist working at a German university who was arrested last year for spying for Russia shared information about the European space rocket program Arian, according to the German prosecutor’s office.

The accused, identified only as Ilnur N, has been charged with alleged secret service activity, federal prosecutors said in a statement Thursday.

Ilnur was working at a Bavarian university when he was contacted by Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR in 2019, they said.

He “provided information on research projects in the field of aerospace technology, in particular on the various stages of development of the European Ariane launch vehicle,” they said.

The European Space Agency’s Ariane program consists of a series of transport rockets designed to transport heavy cargo, including satellites, into space.

According to prosecutors, Ilnur has held “regular meetings” since late November 2019 with a senior officer of Russia’s foreign intelligence service based in Germany.

He is said to have received 2,500 euros ($ 2,800) in exchange for information he shared, which includes details of his research at an unnamed Bavarian university.

Vulcain 2 engine for the Ariane 5 rocketVulcain 2 engine for the Ariane 5 rocket on the PF50 test bench at the ArianeGroup site in Vernon, France [File: Eric Piermont/AFP]

Ilnur was arrested last June on suspicion of spying for Moscow.

Prosecutors said he worked as a research associate in the university’s science and technology department.

The case comes amid heightened tensions between Germany and Russia, as the West fears Moscow plans to invade Ukraine.

Germany recently saw a series of alleged cases of Russian espionage on its territory.

In October 2021, a German man was sentenced to two years probation for handing over floor plans of parliament buildings to Russia’s secret services while he was employed by a security company.

In August, a former employee of the British Embassy in Berlin was arrested on suspicion of handing over documents to Russian intelligence.

Germany has also repeatedly accused Russia of cyber espionage.

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