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Rule of LawGermany

German soldier accused of espionage faces trial

August 11, 2022

Prosecutors have alleged the suspect was "in contact with a Russian intelligence service" between 2014 and 2020. Information was said to have been shared during personal meetings, over the telephone, email and WhatsApp.

A police officer walks past the entrance to the Russian embassy in Berlin
The suspect is accused of sharing information with Russia between 2014 and 2020Image: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

A German soldier went on trial on Thursday for allegedly giving information to Russian intelligence services while serving as a reserve officer for the Bundeswehr, Germany's military.

"We believe the accused was in contact with Russian intelligence service GRU via several persons, particularly at the Russian Embassy in Berlin," federal prosecutor Gerd Kaiser said at the courthouse on Thursday. The communication is alleged to have occurred between 2014 and 2020.

Named as Ralph G. under German privacy laws, the accused is alleged to have shared data on the inner workings of Germany's military reserve and civil defense, as well as the impact of sanctions Berlin imposed on Russia in 2014.

Nord Stream 2 data allegedly passed on to Russia

More specifically, Ralph G. is accused of sharing excerpts from an official government document on Berlin's relationship with Moscow in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

He is also alleged to have shared the "personal data of high ranking members of the Bundeswehr."

Other documents he allegedly shared with the Russian GRU military intelligence agency included ones related to the now shelved Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Data shared in person and via WhatsApp

The information was reportedly shared via personal meetings, over the telephone, email and messaging service WhatsApp.

According to Der Spiegel magazine, Ralph G. was a lieutenant colonel who also worked as a sales manager for an international engineering firm in western Germany.

As he had a civilian profession, he "belonged to several German business committees" and was also able hand over to Russian authorities personal information on high-profile business figures, prosecutors claim.

No remuneration

Ralph G. is not thought to have been paid for his services. Instead, he is alleged to have received "invitations to events organized by the Russian government agencies."

The trial comes at a time when relations between Moscow and Berlin are fraught due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The trial at the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court in western Germany is expected to last until December, with 20 court days scheduled.

jsi/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)