Switzerland is now the spy hub of Russia and Vladimir Putin, a new report has claimed.
Around one-fifth of Moscow’s spies in Europe are now said to be operating in the neutral country. That amounts to roughly 80 of Vladimir Putin's agents.
Fears remain that the use of diplomatic neutrality in Switzerland has afforded spies a base from which to operate wider spy networks across the continent. Cities like Bern and Geneva could be among the hotspots being used by Russia which was forced to relocate a number of its intelligence officers working under diplomatic titles.
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Roughly half of Russia’s foreign delegations were removed from the countries they had settled in following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year, according to MI6 chief Sir Richard Moore. Speaking in November last year about the expulsions, MI5 head Ken McCallum said: “This has struck the most significant strategic blow against the Russian Intelligence Services in recent European history”.
But despite the optimism, data released by the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service raised the alarm about increased Russian spy presence in the country. Switzerland is part of the Schengen area and as such has open borders with the rest of Europe. This has bred the fears that spy networks might be run from the central European country out into nations where expulsions have been carried out.
Last year reports were made by Swiss intelligence that the Russian intelligence in the country was “flourishing” and now it appears this has taken yet another leap forward, according to the new report in Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
The UNHCR and World Trade Organisation in Geneva are both based in Switzerland and as such allow diplomatic accreditations. But despite this, concern is growing in Switzerland over the presence of Russian agents.
Swiss National Assembly member Fabian Molina, said: “These foreign agents threaten Switzerland’s internal and external security.”
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