Top German spy says Russians snooping more

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Russian spies are targeting the German energy sector to help Russian firms gain commercial advantages, the head of Germany‘s domestic counter-espionage unit said yesterday.

“The Russian intelligence services, keeping up with their government’s changing information needs, have intensified efforts in recent years to investigate German firms illegally,” Burkhard Even, told Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Reuters says the director of Counter-Intelligence at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution said the spying was aimed mostly at information on alternative and renewable energy and efforts to increase efficiency.

European energy interests, diversification plans, and Germany‘s economic situation were also espionage targets.

Last month Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also noted, when presenting his ministry’s 2008 security report, that Russia and China were stepping up espionage efforts and Internet attacks on German companies.

Last year a German court convicted a former employee of European aeronautic defence and space company EADS of selling information on civilian helicopters to Russian intelligence.

Moscow‘s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), smaller than its military intelligence service but successor to part of the Soviet KGB, is the body analysts say covers economic matters.

The head of the unit, Mikhail Fradkov, is a former Prime Minister and economics expert appointed by former President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy during the Cold War.

Germany‘s Even said the targets of espionage were expanding and that all companies should tighten up security.

“Not only big firms are affected, but also increasingly small and middle-sized companies. We therefore call on leaders of firms to step up protection against industrial espionage,” he said.