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Russian scientist to go on trial over space rocket spying

BERLIN (AFP) – A Russian scientist accused of spying for Moscow on Europe’s Ariane space rocket programme while working at a German university is to go on trial in Munich this month.

The accused, identified only as Ilnur N, was arrested in June 2021 – the latest in a string of alleged Russian spies uncovered on German soil at a time when tensions between Russia and the West are at their worst since the Cold War.

The trial will open on February 17, with 12 hearings planned until April 8, the Munich court said yesterday.

Prosecutors allege that Ilnur N was contacted by Russian agents in autumn 2019 or earlier, when he was working at an unnamed Bavarian university.

He then allegedly passed information to Moscow about research projects on aerospace technology, particularly the European launcher Ariane.

The Ariane rockets are a series of European Space Agency transportation vehicles designed to ferry heavy loads including satellites into space.

According to prosecutors, Ilnur N worked as a research assistant at the Bavarian university’s natural sciences and technology department.

At the time of his arrest, Augsburg University in southern Germany said Ilnur N was employed there.