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German intelligence officer denies Russia spying charges

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A former German intelligence officer on Wednesday denied spying for Russia, saying he had been trying to recruit his co-defendant as a potential source.

Carsten Linke and Arthur Eller are accused by prosecutors of working together with a Russian businessman to “procure sensitive information” from Germany’s BND foreign intelligence and relay it to Russia’s FSB.

But Linke told the court in Berlin that he met Eller through a friend and made his new acquaintance an offer to supply information to Germany’s BND foreign intelligence.

Eller’s activities in Africa and his high-profile contacts in the region made him an attractive potential recruit.

“This is exactly the clientele they are on the lookout for,” said Linke.

Subsequently on a joint visit to a Berlin brothel, Eller told Linke of a contact in the “Russian security sector”.

The contact was said to have detailed knowledge of Russian espionage efforts at Western embassies in Moscow.

Linke said the potential intelligence was of particular interest to him as he was tasked with investigating irregularities at the German embassy in the Russian capital.

Prosecutors by contrast accuse Linke of passing information to the Russian security services via Eller.

Linke is alleged to have printed out or taken screenshots of nine internal BND files.

The documents were transferred to Eller, who is said to have carried digital copies to Moscow, printed them out and turned them over to Russia’s FSB security agency.

For their services, the FSB is said to have paid Linke at least 450,000 euros ($478,750) and Eller at least 400,000 euros.

The information allegedly passed to Moscow is said to have concerned the activities of the Wagner paramilitary group.

According to a report by German weekly Spiegel, the BND had access to a messaging app used by the group led by warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, which fought alongside Russia’s regular troops in Ukraine.

The highly sensitive trial is being held under tight security, with some sessions closed to the public to prevent leaks.

Linke and Eller face charges of high treason and if found guilty, could be jailed for life.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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