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Germany arrests two for alleged sabotage for Russia, undermining support for Ukraine aid

The accused have been identified as Dieter S and Alexander J, who targeted potential targets including US military facilities to sabotage military aid for Ukraine. Germany has become one of Kyiv's biggest suppliers at a critical time of war with Russia.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Berlin Published on: April 18, 2024 23:47 IST
Germany, German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz
Image Source : AP (FILE) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Berlin: Two German-Russian nationals have been arrested in Germany on suspicions of espionage on behalf of Russia, and one of them has been accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets including US military facilities in hopes of sabotaging aid for Ukraine, said prosecutors on Thursday. Officials called it a serious effort to undermine military support for Ukraine at a critical time of war with Russia.

The accused have been identified as Dieter S and Alexander J in line with German privacy rules, and they were arrested on Wednesday in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth. Authorities have searched the homes and workplaces of the two suspects and said Dieter S had been discussing possible acts of sabotage in Germany with a person linked to Russian intelligence since October.

The suspect declared himself willing to carry out bombing and arson attacks on infrastructure used by the military and industrial sites in Germany, prosecutors said in a statement. They added that he gathered information on potential targets, including US military facilities.

Germany lashes out at Russia

Germany has become one of Kyiv's biggest suppliers of military aid since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and is a major target for Russian spying operations, authorities have said. Dieter S was helped by Alexander J in his activities since March, while the former scouted out some of the sites, took photos and videos of military goods and passed the information to his intelligence contact.

A judge on Wednesday ordered Dieter S kept in custody pending a possible indictment, and Alexander J was ordered held on Thursday. Dieter S also faces separate accusations of belonging to an armed unit of pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine between December 2014 and September 2016.

"We can never accept that such espionage activities take place in Germany," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a news conference following an informal EU summit in Brussels. "So we also have our own defense mechanisms to uncover them, as we always do".

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said suspicions that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "recruiting agents from us to carry out attacks on German soil is extremely serious. We will not allow Putin to bring his terror to Germany". Germany has also summoned the Russian ambassador over the arrests.

The Russian embassy in Germany referred to the incident as a "provocation" and said that Berlin had provided no evidence of the detainees' links to Russia. "We reject attempts to find the involvement of Russian special services in the development of alleged plans to attack military facilities located in Germany, including American military bases, as absurd and ridiculous," the embassy said on its Facebook page.

A critical time in Russia-Ukraine war

According to Spiegel magazine, the targeted facilities included the Grafenwoehr army base in the southern state of Bavaria, where Ukrainian soldiers receive training to use US Abrams tanks. A US military spokesperson said that US and allied training missions at Grafenwoehr continue. In a separate case, prosecutors last month charged an officer in Germany's military procurement agency with attempting to pass secret information to Russian intelligence.

This comes as Ukraine is running out of options to counter Russia's intensified attacks. Ukraine is facing a shortage of ammunition, with vital $60 billion funding from the US blocked by Republicans for months and the European Union failing to deliver munitions on time. This shortage of ammunition, troops and armoured vehicles has allowed Russia to move forward into the country along the 1,000-km front line. Ukraine has also accused Russia of ramping up the use of illegal tear gas to clear trenches.

Kyiv was further dealt a blow when Zelenskyy informed that Ukraine had run out of defensive missiles, due to which it was unable to defend against a Russian attack on the key Trypilska power plant, which left over a million people in the country without electricity. Overnight storms have further threatened Ukraine's fragile power system, cutting power access to several people.

Ukraine's need is now acute, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank. “The Russians are breaking out of positional warfare and beginning to restore manoeuvre to the battlefield because of the delays in the provision of US military assistance to Ukraine,” the ISW said in an assessment on Tuesday. Germany also issued an urgent appeal this week for countries to help shore up Ukraine's air defences as Russian forces continue to pound Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

(with inputs from agencies)

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