According to Handelsblatt, both officials worked in a particularly sensitive area dealing with the federal government’s energy policy. The Ministry of Economy handed the case over to counterintelligence after it became suspicious.
The Federal Ministry of Economy does not comment much on the case. “We always deal with all security-relevant indications in close coordination with the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and immediately take any necessary steps also in coordination with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution,” the newspaper quotes a spokesman for the ministry.
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According to the newspaper Die Zeit, officials have become suspect for taking conspicuously pro-Russian positions in gas and energy policy proposals. On topics such as the licensing of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, state intervention in Gazprom Germania and the rescue of Uniper, they regularly insisted on an opinion that differed from the government.
According to German media, BfV agents went through the CVs of the suspected officials and found biographical salience, in one case, for example, a study stay in Russia. The intelligence officers also investigated the travel of the suspects and checked whether their flights were for business reasons or not. The intelligence service also examined private friendships and personal relationships with Russians. However, unequivocal evidence that they were spies has reportedly not yet been found.
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The deputy chairman of the committee for secret services in the Bundestag, Roderich Kiesewetter, nevertheless warned against espionage attempts in other ministries as well. “It is certainly only the tip of the iceberg, the espionage probably affects other ministries and institutions as well,” the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician told Handelsblatt. “It can therefore be assumed that Russia, with its hybrid way of acting and the deployment of intelligence tools, was unfortunately really successful, especially in Germany,” Kiesewetter added.