European countries are on high alert for Russian spies in their midst, following a wave of scandals involving people selling secrets to Moscow unseen since the Cold War.

In the latest such case, a British court sentenced a former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin, David Ballantyne Smith, to more than 13 years in jail after he was caught spying for Moscow.

A review conducted for the Swedish Defense Research Agency in 2022 showed the number of espionage cases in Europe, nearly all for Russia, accelerating dramatically in the last decade as President Vladimir Putin ramps up his information war.

Here are some of the biggest cases from recent years, most of which pre-date the war in Ukraine:

- Swedish brothers -

On January 19, 2023, a Swedish court sentences a former intelligence agent to life in prison and his brother to 10 years for passing sensitive information to Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.


In what is considered one of Sweden's most serious espionage affairs in history, Peyman Kia and his brother Payam, were found guilty of "aggravated espionage".

- German suspected double agent -

German police in December 2022 arrest a suspected double agent within the BND foreign intelligence agency accused of sharing state secrets with Russia.

The arrest of the man, identified only as Carsten L., comes a month after a German man received a suspended sentence for passing information to Russian intelligence while working as a reserve officer for the German army between 2014 and 2020.

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- Italian captain -

In March 2021, an Italian navy captain is arrested after being caught handing over a memory card containing 181 pictures of confidential documents to a Russian officer.

Walter Biot, who worked in the office of the Chief of the Defence Staff and had access to classified documents, was allegedly paid 5,000 euros.

- Bulgarian defence officials -

In March 2021, Bulgarian authorities break up a suspected Russian spy ring comprising several defence ministry officials.


The ring is allegedly led by a former intelligence officer whose Russian-Bulgarian wife acted as a go-between with the Russian embassy.

- Austrian colonel -

In 2018, a retired Austrian army colonel is arrested on charges of spying for Russia for decades, starting in the 1990s.

Under questioning he reveals the Russians wanted information about weapons systems and Europe's migrant crisis. He gets a three-year jail sentence.

- Polish energy official -

In March 2018, a Polish energy ministry official is arrested for passing information to Russia about Poland's stance on the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline project.

Poland staunchly opposed the pipeline built to transport Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Western Europe.

The official is sentenced to three years in prison.

- Hungarian politician -

In 2017, a Hungarian member of the European Parliament from the nationalist Jobbik party, Bela Kovacs, is charged with spying on the EU for Russia.

Kovacs, whose father was Russian, was a frequent visitor to Moscow, where Kovacs is now believed to be living. He is sentenced in absentia to five years in jail in September 2022.

- Moldovan former lawmaker -

A former MP in Moldova, Iurie Bolboceanu, is arrested in March 2017 on charges of regularly selling information to Russia.


Moldova, a former Soviet republic trying to rid itself of Moscow's influence, sentences him to 14 years in jail for treason.

- Portuguese double agent -

In 2016, Portuguese intelligence officer Frederico Carvalhao Gil is arrested in Rome after being caught red-handed selling NATO and EU secrets to a Russian agent. He was extradited to Portugal and sentenced to seven years in prison.

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