The case of a suspected Russian spy in the Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) in Germany turned out to be more dangerous than initially thought.
In particular, the Russian secret service FSB attempted to get data on the location of Ukrainian army artillery and air defense locations via a BND employee who has since been arrested.
Arrested spy was assigned to get HIMARS locations in Ukraine
As a result, the FSB directed the BND agent to gather and send GPS data from the US-supplied HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and the Berlin-supplied IRIS-T air defense system.
The employee earned a six-figure sum as a reward for his services, and the money was discovered on him when he was detained. But, insiders believe that such information was not transferred.
According to media reports, on December 21, the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office arrested a member of the country’s Federal Intelligence Agency on suspicion of treason – suspected of spying for Russia.
The arrest of Arthur Eller
On a January trip from Miami to Munich, the German citizen was detained and charged with treason for assisting Russia in recruiting and running a Moscow mole in the upper echelons of Germany’s intelligence service.
The arrest of Arthur Eller on January 21, mainly based on information gathered by the FBI during the suspect’s stay in Florida, was the latest episode in a hidden battle against Russia’s intelligence services.
West’s campaign to destroy Russian spy networks
Western allies increased arms deliveries to Ukraine and imposed economic sanctions on Russia. The US and European intelligence services have waged a campaign to destroy Russian spy networks.
The German case included the arrest of a senior official from Germany’s foreign intelligence arm, the BND. Following that, suspected Russian operatives were detained in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Poland, and Slovenia.
Massive arrests and expulsions of Russian spies
Following the massive expulsion of over 400 accused Russian intelligence officials from Moscow’s embassies across Europe last year, the moves amount to precision attacks against Russian agents still in Europe.
US and European security sources warn that Russia has significant capabilities but that its intelligence services have suffered more damage in the last year than ever since the Cold War’s end.
The extent of the campaign appears to have caught Russia off guard, officials said, limiting its ability to carry out influence operations in Europe, maintain contact with undercover agents, or provide insights to the Kremlin on critical issues such as Western weapons deliveries to Ukraine to fight back Russian invaders.
If this is the case, the aftermath may be added to the list of consequences that Russian President Vladimir Putin – a former KGB officer in East Germany – did not anticipate when he launched the invasion of Ukraine.
The world has changed for Russian intelligence services, as European countries’ intelligence services are on the hunt for them. Expulsions, arrests, and a hostile climate hampered Russia’s capacity to spy.
Moscow seeks new ways to spy in Europe
Against this backdrop, authorities told the Washington Post that Moscow has attempted to use border crossings and refugee movements to deploy fresh spies and replace its depleted forces. But, these new newcomers would lack the safety and benefits of operating out of Russian embassies, according to officials. They may need more expertise, sources, and training of individuals branded persona non grata.
Moscow has attempted to reintroduce expelled agents from one European metropolis to another, testing for gaps in coordination across the continent’s patchwork of security services. Nonetheless, the official stated that his country and others had exchanged the identities of individuals banned with other European Union members.
Russia could have received sensitive data from Germany
The German case has amplified concerns about Europe’s persisting vulnerabilities, demonstrating that Moscow received a steady stream of classified files from one of Europe’s most extensive intelligence services, Germany’s BND. Berlin has downplayed the harm in discussions with allied services. Still, the suspect mole had access to highly sensitive data, according to security officials.
Arrest of Linke, BND security agency officer
A month before Eller’s arrest in Munich, German investigators detained Carsten Linke, 52, who was in command of a unit responsible for internal BND security and had access to agency employees’ personnel data, according to officials.
According to German media reports, Linke and Eller met at a social gathering in 2021. Nevertheless, sources told The Post in recent interviews that there is evidence that the two were introduced by a member of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, raising the possibility that Linke was motivated by radical political ideas.
According to a source familiar with the probe, Eller’s job appeared to necessitate much travel, with 110 visits in 2022, with records indicating that he routinely flew to Moscow.
Eller – Linke connection
Eller returned to Germany in December as part of a work trip abroad. When Linke was detained on December 21, Eller said he received a call from a contact in Russia’s Federal Security Agency (FSB), the principal successor to the KGB, informing him that he was in danger and asking him to fly to Moscow.
Instead, according to a person familiar with the case, Eller returned to Florida on Christmas Day. Surprisingly, German officials made no move to stop him from departing. “The evidence we had obtained was insufficient to arrest him,” stated a German security official.
The FBI’s investigation altered that. After learning that Eller was being investigated concerning the BND leak, the agency placed him under near-constant surveillance. Agents tracked Eller’s travels and communications, while German police offered a steady flow of data about their probe, according to sources.
On January 12, he attempted to board another flight to Munich and was detained by FBI officers at the Miami airport. Eller agreed to be questioned by FBI officials at a location nearby.
Eller told the FBI and German investigators that “he was the one who asked Linke to commit the espionage acts,” according to a senior German security official. While the guilt of Eller and Linke is being proven, the campaign against Russian spies in Europe will continue.