Swiss intel service: Watch out for redeployed Russian spies

June 27, 2022 GMT

GENEVA (AP) — The Swiss intelligence service says authorities should do whatever they can to prevent Russian spies who have been expelled from Western countries after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine turning up in countries like Switzerland.

The Federal Intelligence Service, in its annual report released Monday, surveyed an array of threats including violent Islamic extremism, cyberattacks and an increasingly polarized world between autocracies and democracies — such as the growing standoff between the United States and China.

But it sounded the alarm most about threats posed by a new conventional war in Europe, migration, and Russia — and said espionage activity has been high and rising.

If Western countries succeed in keeping Russian intelligence service officers from being replaced by new ones deployed under diplomatic cover, then the capacities of Russian spies in those places “will be weakened with lasting effect,” it said. That, in turn, could prompt Moscow to deploy such operatives to other countries.

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“These might also include Switzerland, which is why the instruments available for preventing the entry of such intelligence service officers must be utilized to the full,” the assessment said.

The spy service pointed in particular to Geneva, which hosts many international and United Nations institutions, as an “espionage hotspot.”

The report, which called Russia’s war against Ukraine “a gross violation of international law” that has shattered the decades-old European security, said the course of the war “is anything but encouraging for the Putin regime” – in part because it has cemented the idea in the minds of generations of Ukrainians that Russia is their enemy.

Viola Amherd, who heads the Swiss defense department that oversees the intelligence service, noted that Switzerland – which has traditionally touted its neutrality – has shown a “clear commitment to the Western community of values” in response to the war.

“We are witnessing a turning point that is rocking the very foundations of the security framework in Europe and changing it forever,” she wrote in a foreword to the report.