December 1, 2023


A German court sentenced a Russian researcher to a year suspended sentence for spying on Europe’s Ariane space rocket project.

According to court verdict, Ilnur N. was the man who gave information about research projects to a Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), on multiple occasions between 2019-2021.

The trial focuses attention on Russian intelligence activities in the West. This is in response to what Moscow calls a “special army operation” in Ukraine. It was launched on February 24.

N. was a research associate at University of Augsburg. This is a center for aerospace research. Augsburg also houses large amounts of the manufacturing facilities for the next generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle.

ArianeGroup, jointly owned by Airbus and France’s Safran is one of the most established players in the rapidly growing global launch market. There is intense competition between Russian players Roskosmos and private sector players like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

The Munich court ruled that the SVR handler claimed that he was working for a Russian bank and that he needed information to make private investments. N. didn’t know for certain that he was working in Russian intelligence, but he had suspicions.

Another reason N. was sentenced to a relatively mild sentence is that he cooperated in the prosecution’s case and that he gave information to the handler from easily accessible sources, rather than confidential documents.

The court will also suspend the sentence and confiscate assets worth 500 euros from N. This is the amount the court believes the handler received as payment in April 2021.

According to Germany’s counter-espionage organization, Germany is often a target of Russian intelligence operations.

A German court found Russian agents responsible for the murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin in broad daylight. The act was labelled “state terror” by the judge.

Russia rejected the state terrorism verdict and murder verdict for being “not objectively and politically motivated”.


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