German military officer charged with spying for Russian intelligence services

Siva Ramakrishnan
German prosecutors have charged a military officer with espionage offenses after he was allegedly caught spying on behalf of Russian intelligence services.

German prosecutors have charged a military officer with espionage offenses after he was allegedly caught spying on behalf of Russian intelligence services.

The man, identified as Thomas H, was arrested last August and remains in custody. Although prosecutors described him as a soldier, Germany’s minister for justice Marco Buschmann identified him as “a German officer” on social media.

According to the Federal Prosecutor General, the suspect — who worked in the Bundeswehr’s procurement agency — has been charged with working for a foreign intelligence service and with violating Germany’s official secrecy laws.

The arrest is another data point in a growing corpus of evidence supporting criticisms of Germany’s attention to Russian espionage threats. It follows another arrest the preceding December of an employee at Germany’s foreign intelligence service suspected of treason and also of spying for Russia.

Earlier this month, the country’s military was further embarrassed when a Russian propagandist published an intercepted conversation between Bundeswehr officials discussing the country’s support for Ukraine. The incident prompted the former British defense minister Ben Wallace to describe the country as “compromised.”

Before his arrest, the suspect was based at the Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Utilization (BAAINBw) in Koblenz in western Germany.

He is accused of having proactively contacted the Russian consulate in Bonn — an hour north of Koblenz — and the Russian Embassy in Berlin, several times since May of last year “on his own initiative” to offer sensitive information he had access to as part of his role in the military.

“On one occasion, he passed on information he had obtained in the course of his professional activities for the purpose of forwarding it to a Russian intelligence service,” said the prosecutor’s office.

BAAINBw is responsible for German military equipment procurement, including weapons and IT systems. At the time of Thomas H’s arrest it had recently celebrated the “record time” it took for approval of its procurement of 18 replacement Leopard 2 A6 tanks sent to Ukraine.

Prosecutors said the man’s home and workplace were searched as a result of a warrant issued in July, before a judge unsealed the warrant and remanded him in custody the month after.

Prosecutors did not reveal what information the man was accused of providing to Russia. Alongside its procurement work, BAAINBw is also responsible for providing the technical analysis of foreign defense materiel and providing equipment aid for non-NATO countries.

Germany has provided a substantial amount of military materiel to Ukraine since the Russian invasion last February, and expelled 40 diplomats last year following the discovery of mass graves of civilians in Bucha.

The expulsions of Russian diplomats across Europe — estimated by the head of Britain’s MI6 to include 400 intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover — is believed to have undermined the country’s intelligence work.

Experts have warned that Russia may make more use of its cyber capabilities for industrial espionage as a result of these setbacks to its human intelligence networks, noting a speech by Vladimir Putin to the country’s foreign intelligence service calling for them to help mitigate sanctions.

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Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.

 

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