Under the impression of Russia's war against Ukraine, Moscow's allegedly lively espionage activities in Central European countries come into focus.

On Wednesday, Slovakia's foreign ministry said it had decided to reduce the number of Russian embassy staff by 35.

What the new number of accepted Russian diplomats in Pressburg (Bratislava) is was not disclosed.

In the past two years, Slovakia has expelled a total of nine Russian embassy employees.

Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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There is unrest in Austria over a British newspaper report in which unnamed EU diplomats describe Vienna as an "aircraft carrier" for Russian espionage.

Chief of Staff Robert Brieger vehemently rejected the assertion, also circulated there, that the army was practically a “branch office of the GRU”, the Russian military secret service.

"An Open Book for Moscow"

The Czech Republic has been cracking down on this since last spring.

In April 2021, it was revealed that Russian agents allegedly staged a devastating explosion at a Czech ammunition depot in 2014.

The number of accredited staff at the Russian embassy in Prague has been drastically reduced - a measure that has been reciprocated by Moscow.

In mid-March this year, Slovakian police arrested a total of four people in two large-scale operations in the north and east of the country aimed at "eliminating the activities of a network of Russian intelligence services".

According to the police, there is a professor at the military academy in Liptovský Mikuláš, who holds the rank of colonel, a former employee of the Slovakian secret service SIS, a former employee of a parliamentarian and an employee of a web portal that has since been shut down.

The news portals Direkt36 and Telex report on the alleged cyber attack in Hungary.

The author refers to former secret service employees who are in direct contact with active colleagues.

The attacks on the Foreign Ministry's computer systems date back a decade, and Hungarian diplomacy is "an open book for Moscow."

Nevertheless, Hungary never protested publicly, on the contrary, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó accepted a Russian medal in December.

Opposition calls for Szijjártó's resignation

Partner services were only informed informally at the beginning of this year in the "Bern Club", a body for the exchange of intelligence information.

According to the report, the Hungarian secret service agents apparently acted on their own initiative because the affair was still being covered up.

The State Department put this in the context of the current election campaign and only said that "campaign lies" are not being dealt with.

As a result of these cyber attacks by "Putin's hackers," the Russians are "no longer just in the pantry, but in the government offices," according to a statement by the alliance of Hungarian opposition parties.

When Foreign Minister Szijjártó received the Russian Order of Merit for Friendship from his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on December 30, 2021, he had long known about the cyber attacks, the broadcast said.

The opposition called for Szijjártó's resignation and for the Attorney General's Office to initiate a treason investigation.