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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Says Russian Spies Target Its Energy

Russian spies are targeting the German energy sector to help Russian firms gain commercial advantages, the head of Germany's domestic counterespionage unit said.

"The Russian intelligence services, keeping up with their government's changing information needs, have intensified efforts in recent years to investigate German firms illegally," Burkhard Even told the newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag.

Even, the director of counterintelligence at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said the spying was aimed mostly at information on alternative and renewable energy and efforts to increase efficiency. European energy interests, diversification plans and Germany's economic situation were also espionage targets.

Last month, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also noted, when presenting his ministry's 2008 security report, that Russia and China were stepping up espionage efforts and Internet attacks on German companies.

Last year, a German court convicted a former employee of European aeronautic defense and space company EADS of selling information on civilian helicopters to a Foreign Intelligence Service agent and handed him an 11-month suspended sentence.

Various sources have identified the German engineer as Werner Greipl, a former employee of Eurocopter, the helicopter subsidiary of EADS. Sources have also identified his Russian contact as Vladimir Vozhzhov, a one-time trade attache at the Russian Embassy in Vienna and former official at the Federal Space Agency.

The Foreign Intelligence Service is the body analysts say covers economic matters. The head of the unit, Mikhail Fradkov, is a former prime minister and economics expert appointed by former President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy.

Germany's Even said the targets of espionage were expanding and that all companies should tighten up security.

"Not only big firms are affected but also increasingly small and middle-sized companies. We therefore call on leaders of firms to step up protection against industrial espionage," he said.

(Reuters, MT)