Russia has bolstered its espionage activities in European states during the course of the Ukraine crisis, according to findings of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). EURACTIV Germany reports.
The tactics of Russia’s former Soviet KGB intelligence agency have been employed again, said Hans-Georg Maaßen, President of the BfV, on Wednesday (25 February) at the European Police Conference in Berlin.
Aside from espionage, this included targeted misinformation, influencing decisions and supporting extremist groups with the goal of destabilising a state, Maaßen indicated. As Russia’s neighbours, Eastern European states were especially affected by this, he said.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is Germany’s national agency for domestic security and intelligence gathering.
For years, Russia has viewed Germany and other European states as a target for espionage, Maaßen continued. But in the context of Ukraine, “clear activities” were able to be discovered, particularly with regard to preparation of the West’s decisions in the crisis, the German official pointed out.
Maaßen also warned that alienation between Russia and the West threatens the security situation in Germany and Europe as a whole. Due to numerous conflicts and threats in the world, a cooperation is actually urgently needed, he said.
“It makes the fight against Islamic extremism and terrorism more difficult at a time when we would need it the least,” Maaßen pointed out.
Germany not on an island of security
According to the President of the BfV, Germany will not remain free from Islamist attacks in the long-term.
“We must assume that we will also be the target of terrorist attacks and we should prepare for this,” Maaßen said. Germany is not on an island of security, he warned.
Organisations like the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaida pursue the goal of destabilising the West, spreading fear and horror by carrying out such attacks, Maaßen indicated.
In addition, they want to bring the ideology of the global Jihad to German and European cities. But as of now, there is no indication of concrete plans for an attack, Maaßen said.
The head of constitutional protection again indicated the threat of fighters who leave Europe to take part in the war in Syria or Iraq.
600 young people travelled there from Germany and around 4,000 individuals from Europe. Roughly 200 people returned to Germany, he indicated, 70 of which lost their lives. Ten of these deaths occurred in suicide attacks. Officials suspect that 70 of those who returned were involved in serious crimes and acts of war, Maaßner said, adding that, as a general rule, they have been so brutalised that they are no longer shocked by attacks.
But for most of them, often the authorities do not know what they did in the conflict zone, the German official explained.
The “European Police Conference” is an international event that is considered an information platform for decision-makers in police and security forces. The conference takes place annually, with 2015’s marking the 18th of its kind.
This year the conference’s slogan was: “Challenges and borders for security in freedom – infrastructure and architects of European security.”