Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Austria Frees Suspect with Stern Warning

Austrian authorities on Thursday freed Vladimir Vozhzhov, the space agency official arrested last week on spy charges, but made it clear that he was not welcome to enter the country again with diplomatic immunity.

"Mr. Vozhzhov walked free from the Josefstadt prison in Vienna at 12:40 p.m. today," Thomas Geiblinger, spokesman for the Austrian Justice Ministry, said by telephone from Vienna on Thursday.

He said he expected Vozhzhov to fly home later in the day.

Vozhzhov was at the Russian Embassy in Vienna late Thursday and will go to Moscow "in the nearest future," embassy spokeswoman Tatyana Kupalova said. She said Vozhzhov had told embassy staff that he felt "fine" and had no complaints about how Austrian authorities had treated him during his 10 days in custody.

A Vienna court authorized his release after Salzburg prosecutors dropped a request to have him extradited to Germany, which had issued a warrant for his arrest. It was unclear how German prosecutors would react to this, with calls to the federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe going unanswered.

Vozhzhov was arrested June 11 as he alighted from a train in Salzburg. He was in Austria to attend a two-week United Nations space conference in Vienna. Austrian media have reported that he offered 20,000 euros ($26,600) to an Austrian military helicopter technician for classified information, possibly from German-based Eurocopter.

The release ends a bitter diplomatic dispute in which Russia accused Austria of violating international law by arresting an official who had diplomatic status because he was attending a UN conference. Austrian prosecutors had argued that Vozhzhov entered the country with an ordinary government employee passport and therefore was not protected by diplomatic immunity. But Vienna accepted the Russian line after it received a report from the UN's Legal Counsel in New York that Vozhzhov had immunity for the UN conference in Vienna and the whole territory of Austria.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry said Vozhzhov should not consider attending future UN events. "We told the United Nations that we expect them to accept no further nominations for this man at UN conferences," ministry spokesman Gerhard Schnetzer said.

Federal Space Agency spokesman Igor Panarin praised Russian diplomats for securing the release. Asked to confirm the suspect's name and that he held the post of the deputy head of the agency's international cooperation department, he said, "We are not commenting on this for now."

The helicopter technician linked to the case has been arrested. Vienna-based magazine News reported Thursday that the 51-year old man owned a Porsche and a Lamborghini.

Staff Writer Simon Saradzhyan contributed to this report.