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Germany Confronts Russian Espionage


In Berlin, parliamentary buildings sit next to Russia’s diplomatic mission. For years, a silent espionage struggle played out here, as German lawmakers were warned by intelligence offices to protect themselves by turning computer screens away from the window, stop using wireless devices that were easier to tap, and close the window blinds for meetings.

Tensions over Russian espionage were something Germany’s government long seemed willing to ignore. That has become increasingly difficult since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as a Cold War-style chill settles across the continent and recasts relations with Russia.

Late last month, Russia exposed what it described as a “mass expulsion” of its diplomats in Germany when it announced a tit-for-tat expulsion of more than 20 German diplomats from Moscow. It was a rare sign, security analysts say, of Berlin’s counterintelligence effort after years of increasingly brazen Russian intelligence operations on German soil.

At least twice, Russian groups suspected of having Kremlin links have hacked German politicians and Parliament. In 2021, police arrested a security guard at the British Embassy who had been spying for Russia. And late last year, a German intelligence officer was unmasked as a mole passing information on surveillance of the war in Ukraine to Moscow.

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