Germany arrests 2 for alleged Russian spy sabotage plot on U.S. military sites to undermine Ukraine aid

MUNICH, Germany — Two men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of spying for Russia and collecting information on potential attack targets, including U.S. military facilities, authorities said Thursday.

The German Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement that two German-Russian nationals — named only as Dieter S. and Alexander J. in line with the country’s privacy rules — were working with a Russian secret service agent to undermine international military support for Ukraine.

Dieter S. is suspected to be a former fighter for pro-Kremlin forces in eastern Ukraine and is accused of making arrangements for an explosive or arson attack in Germany.

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed that it it had on Thursday summoned the Russian ambassador to Berlin in light of the arrests.

The men were arrested on Wednesday in Bayreuth, a city in the southern state of Bavaria, by the Federal Criminal Police Office

Their homes and workplaces were searched by Bavarian state police. Some Ukrainian soldiers have been training at U.S. military installations in this part of Bavaria.

Arrest warrants dated April 9 accuse both men of working for a foreign secret service and carrying out “activity for sabotage purposes” and for obtaining “security-threatening depictions of military installations,” prosecutors said.

The prosecutor’s statement said Dieter S. has been in touch with a “person who is connected to the Russian secret service” since Oct. 2023, with whom he discussed possible sabotage operations in Germany.

“The actions were intended in particular to undermine military support provided to Ukraine from Germany against the Russian war of aggression,” the statement said.

“Against this background, the accused stated to his counterpart that he was willing to use explosion and arson attacks especially on infrastructure used for military purposes and industrial sites in Germany,” it added. “To prepare, Dieter S. collected information about potential attack targets, including U.S. military facilities,” it said.

Authorities accused Dieter S. of going to multiple sites to take photos and videos which were passed on to his Russian secret service contact. They also allege that Alexander J. helped him from March this year at the latest.

Dieter S. appeared in court Wednesday, where he was placed in pre-trial detention. Alexander J will appear in court on Thursday, authorities said.

A separate arrest warrant dated April 11 accuses Dieter S. of membership of a foreign terrorist organization and of “preparation of a serious act of violence that endangers the state.” This warrant notes the “strong suspicion” that he was active as a pro-Russian solider in an armed wing of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, engaging in the ongoing war for control of Ukraine.

Ukraine has long warned that Russian spies were active across Europe and working to sabotage its defense against Russia’s invasion, in particular in Germany.

Oleksiy Danilov, the former coordinator of Ukraine’s war cabinet, told The Times of London last month: “We have made multiple warnings to our German partners about the spy network of Russians that are very active in Germany.”

He added: “It is well known the Russians are listening to conversations of German officials and we think this is not the last conversation they have.”

Danilov was removed from job and replaced last month as part of a military shake-up by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Germany accused Russia of “information war” last month after Russian state media published the audio of a private discussion among high-ranking German military officers about support for Ukraine, sparking embarrassment in Berlin and glee in Moscow.

Germany has become the second-biggest supplier of weapons to Ukraine after the U.S., but the country has been engaged in a fierce debate over whether it should be doing more.

“We know that the Russian power apparatus is also targeting our country,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann wrote on X after the arrests, adding that Germany “must respond to this threat defensively and decisively.”

Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, said in a statement that this was “a particularly serious case of suspected spy activity for Putin’s criminal regime.”

Asked about the arrests on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I can’t comment on it in any way, I do not have any information in this regard.”

Carlo Angerer reported from Munich, and Patrick Smith from London.