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Vienna-Based Russian Operatives Accused of Paying for Pilot Kuzminov’s Murder


The Wall Street Journal, citing sources within Western intelligence agencies, has reported that Russian state officials based in Vienna paid assassins for the murder of Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov.

According to the WSJ report, over ten officials from Austria, other European countries, and the United States, have indicated that Vienna has become a central hub for clandestine Russian operations. These activities include coordinating financial and logistical support for assassinations, sabotage, and recruitment across Europe.

According to Spanish government sources, it was Kuzminov himself who chose to settle in Villajoyosa, a coastal town with a registered population of around 36,000, which includes 1,200 Ukrainians and 800 Russians, according to the latest municipal records. The Spanish government provided him with fake ID, but not protection. 

One is that he was recognized by a fellow Russian. There are 17,500 registered Russian citizens in Villajoyosa, which lies close to Altea, another coastal town with a large Russian community. The second theory, the one backed by the Ukrainian secret services, is that the pilot called his girlfriend to ask her to come visit him at his new Spanish residence. The investigation remains underway and under wraps.

Foto: La Información Alicante a Ministerstvo obrany Ukrajiny

The only doubt experts have is whether the operation was the work of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), whose head justified the assassination; of the Federal Security Service (FSB), heir of the KGB; or of the Military Intelligence Service (GRU), since Kuzminov was a captain and, therefore, under its jurisdiction. Sources in the Spanish intelligence services admit, however, that it is very difficult for the investigation to find evidence of the involvement of any of them. They assume that the crime was committed by gunmen (probably hired killers) from outside Spain, who by now are abroad; the body, with half a dozen gunshot wounds, was found on February 13 in the garage of the residential complex where he lived, in Villajoyosa (Alicante), although his death was not made public until Monday. After shooting him, the murderers ran over him with a car, which was found burned in the nearby town of El Campello.

Rising Presence of Russian Officials in Austria

Intelligence sources in Austria have revealed that the number of Russian officials in the country has increased from approximately 400 to over 500 in the past two years. Around half of these officials are diplomats or have managerial functions, while the other half are believed to be spies.

After the closure of the Russian consulate in Munich, several Russian officials, including suspected spies, relocated to Austria.Russian diplomatic missions in Vienna operate from around 40 buildings, many equipped with various surveillance apparatus on their rooftops.

Suspected Surveillance of Western Military Aid to Ukraine

Western intelligence agencies suspect that Russian operatives in Austria are involved in monitoring the logistics of Western military aid to Ukraine. However, the immediate success is less clear from the reporting. Essentially to operatives were successful since Kuzimov was murdered by Russian operatives. 

It is alleged that Russian officials in Vienna paid assassins who killed Kuzminov. Kuzminov had collaborated with Ukraine, defecting with a Mi-8 helicopter in exchange for a substantial reward, and was later found dead in Spain.

Cash Transfers and Diplomatic Immunity

Austrian intelligence reports suggest that Russia transfers large sums of cash to Austria by land. These funds are then distributed across Europe by Russian “diplomats” using personal belongings that police are unable to inspect due to diplomatic immunity.

Political Response and Security Measures

An anonymous Austrian intelligence source admitted, “We are becoming a problem for our neighbours because Russia is using us as an operational base.” This is an old and well-known problem. 

Opposition lawmaker Stephanie Krisper, a member of the relevant parliamentary committee, has urged the Austrian government to end its “extremely dangerous inaction” regarding Russian spies, arguing that it undermines efforts to weaken Russian influence in Europe.

The Austrian Ministry of the Interior maintains that Austria remains one of the safest countries, citing the effectiveness of its security structures. Oddly enough the Austrian reformed intelligence agency was not commenting on the operation displaying a usual “head in the sand-attitude”, said the official. “If you don’t look at it the problem might go away.”, he added. 

The service is still aligned with the political powers in the country. Staffing is drawn from the rural police services, hence a culture of “Schnitzel and Beers” is predominate. The service is a collection of inbreeding of service members interrelated by marriage. Language skills are non-existing, and the main activity is to chase false reports and gun permits. 

Resources are wasted chasing dead relatives of one person of interests with methods from the “Third Man” and other bizarre reasons. Lawsuits are increasing and the service once reputable is shunned by the European partners. 

Its world vision is typical oriented to the farmlands of Austria and overseas limited to Bavaria. The scandal involving Egisto Ott is reflective of the service inefficiency where rumours and counter rumours run in the agency. “Is the Austrian intelligence service equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century?”, asks critically an academic. 

A ministry spokesperson confirmed that they are aware of the threat posed by Russian spies and influence operations and are addressing these threats within the legal framework.

Legal Context of Espionage in Austria

In Austria, espionage is not illegal unless it is directed against the country itself.

The Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson stated that Vienna would support the expulsion of diplomats who break the law, provided there is sufficient evidence.

This week, former Austrian intelligence officer Egisto Ott, who was arrested in March on suspicion of espionage, was released after several months in custody.

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