Slovakia decided to expel three Russian diplomats after it charged two Slovak nationals for having handed over confidential security information to Russian agents.
Slovakia says two men on its territory are charged for being spies for Russia. Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expelled three Russian diplomats.
Stefan Hamran, Slovakia’s chief police officer, said on March 15 that four Slovak nationals have been detained after a police operation conducted Friday to Monday. Two of them face spying and bribery charges and may be convicted of up to 13 years in prison. The other two have been released.
“It’s about a long term, paid cooperation with the Russian military intelligence service (GRU),” prosecutor Daniel Lipšic said during the news conference.
The two are accused of gathering highly sensitive and classified information about Slovakia, its armed forces and NATO. Stolen information also concerned Ukraine but no details has been given. They would hand over information to undercover GRU officers based at the Russian Embassy in Bratislava.
The suspects would have received tens of thousands euros for their cooperation. One of the two charged men was the head of a security department at the Armed Forces Academy and in contact with GRU officers since 2013, according to officials. Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď reportedly said the spy had security clearance.
The other one was a former assistant of a Slovak Parliament lawmaker and a former member of the Slovak spy service. He was working for a leading national pro-Russian conspiracy website and is believed to have cooperated with the Russians at least from April 2021.
The disinformation website was blocked by Slovak authorities since March 2. The editorial board yesterday wrote on Facebook that it wasn’t aware of the cooperation of the accused with Russia and asked not to be associated with it. Trying to dissociate themselves from the spy, the board identified him as an “occasional unpaid correspondent” whose contributions didn’t concern Russia.
Slovak daily Denník N released a video of one of his meetings with a Russian agent in a park. During the meeting captured by Slovak security forces in 2021, he receives 500 euros (US$547) in cash for himself and another 500 euros for a friend.
Authorities says it’s the first time such a case happens in Slovakia. The officials said the two confessed their guilt.
“We place special emphasis on this case also because the Russian Federation currently qualifies the Slovak Republic as an enemy state,” Lipšic said. Russia considered last week the European Union, of which Slovakia is a member state, as hostile to the federation after having imposed economic sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.
As a consequence of the investigations, Slovakia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday it was expelling three Russian embassy workers arguing their activities violated the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. The diplomats have 72 hours to leave the country. Russian spies are not charged as they are not bound to Slovak jurisdiction.