Russian convicted of spying in Germany, gets suspended term

BERLIN (AP) — A German court convicted a Russian man of espionage and gave him a one-year suspended sentence on Wednesday for passing research including information about European rockets to Russian intelligence.

The defendant, identified only as Ilnur N. in line with German privacy rules, worked as a research assistant for a science and technology professor at the University of Augsburg until his arrest in June.

The Munich state court said a man accredited as a vice consul in the Bavarian city contacted the defendant in 2019, initially telling him that he worked for a Russian bank and needed information on aerospace technology research projects for private investments.

At meetings with the consulate employee, the defendant handed over information that he had compiled from publicly accessible sources, including on the Ariane space launcher, a court statement said.

The court concluded that the defendant only started to suspect in February 2021 that the material was destined for foreign intelligence, but still delivered further material in April last year. It said the handler worked for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service.

When his trial opened in February, the 30-year-old told the court that he wasn’t an agent. He said that he had given publicly accessible information to an employee of the Russian consulate in Munich, but knew nothing of the man’s intelligence activities.

He also said he hadn’t been able to imagine that Russian intelligence was interested in material that was in any case publicly available.

The court said it imposed a suspended sentence because the defendant wasn’t likely to reoffend. It said it also took into account his cooperation with investigators, concluded that he didn’t know for sure that the vice consul worked for Russian intelligence and that his activities didn’t do any discernible damage to Germany.