For years, a man in his capacity as a reserve officer in the Bundeswehr has been providing information to the Russian military intelligence service GRU. He is caught and justifies his behavior with an "extremely pro-Russian attitude". Now the verdict against the 66-year-old. It turns out to be quite mild.
A Bundeswehr reserve officer who has since been dismissed has been found guilty of being a spy in the service of Russia. The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court sentenced the 66-year-old to one year and nine months' imprisonment on probation for being an agent in the secret service. The defendant took note of the verdict, outwardly motionless.
The man from Erkrath near Düsseldorf had provided the Russian military intelligence service GRU with information for years - including information about the Bundeswehr's reservists and the effects of EU sanctions against Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the court explained. He was driven by an "extremely pro-Russian attitude and the urge to make himself popular and important among Russian military personnel," said the presiding judge. In doing so, he accepted damaging the interests of the Federal Republic and the USA.
The defendant fully admitted that the documents had been sent to a Russian military attaché, but denied the allegation of espionage. The sales manager of a US company had claimed that it was about peace and international understanding. After the allegations became known, he was released from his company. He is now retired.
The Bundeswehr made it possible to initiate contact by inviting the military attaché, who according to the federal prosecutor's office is a secret agent of the GRU, to the "Air Force Ball" in February 2014. The two men met there. This was followed by years of information being passed on, mainly via e-mail. The secret service activities of the Erkrather came to a standstill not because it was exposed, but because of the lack of interest on the part of the Russian side after a change in personnel.
The German's defense attorney had demanded an acquittal. The information passed on was not secret, but all publicly available. The court found that this does not change the criminal liability. The man passed on papers on the Bundeswehr's cyber capabilities, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and a study on the European armaments sector, although as a reserve officer he had been warned annually in writing against spying on foreign intelligence services. As an employee of a US company, he was even more sensitized.
Nevertheless, he accepted damaging the interests of the Federal Republic and the USA. He didn't receive any money as a reward, but invitations to the Moscow Security Conference, for example. The Russian Ministry of Defense paid for the flight, hotel and transfer.
The court justified the fact that it remained with a suspended sentence, among other things: When the allegations became known, Erkrather was hit hard "professionally and privately". He had testified that his Russian wife was an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was in therapy after the house search. The verdict is not yet legally binding.