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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Austria Will Free Suspect in Spy Probe

Austria will free a suspected Russian spy after the United Nations confirmed that he has diplomatic immunity, officials said Wednesday.

Vladimir Vozhzhov, who was detained June 11 in Salzburg, will be released from custody "by Friday at the latest," a prosecutor's office spokesman said by telephone from Vienna.

The sudden turnaround occurred after the Austrian Foreign Ministry received a report from the UN's Legal Counsel in New York that said Vozhzhov was protected by diplomatic immunity, a ministry spokesman said.

He said the report, received late Tuesday, found the immunity covered not just Vozhzhov's participation at a UN conference in Vienna, but all of his stay in Austria.

Austria has asked the Foreign Ministry in Moscow to lift his immunity because of the seriousness of the charges against him. "The Russian side declined our suggestion immediately," the spokesman said.

The prosecutor's office spokesman, Gerhard Jarosch, said Wednesday that he expected such a reaction. "We might have to set him free later today, more probably tomorrow and Friday at the latest," he said.

Prosecutors had argued that the suspect entered the country with a normal government employee passport and as such did not deserve immunity. Russia had insisted that he did.

Vozhzhov, a senior official at the Federal Space Agency, was arrested and charged with disclosing state secrets while in Austria as a member of the Russian delegation attending a two-week UN conference on peaceful uses of outer space.

Austrian media reported that he offered an Austrian warrant officer 20,000 euros ($26,600) for classified material, possibly for blueprints from Eurocopter. The Austrian, a helicopter technician, was also arrested.