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The head of Germany’s national cybersecurity agency has been fired over possible links to Russian intelligence.

Arne Schoenbohm, former head of Germany's national cybersecurity agency (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Arne Schoenbohm, former head of Germany’s national cybersecurity agency (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

The head of the national cybersecurity agency of Germany was fired over reports of possible links to Russian intelligence, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Home Secretary Nancy Faeser dismissed Arne Schoenbohm as head of BSI agency following allegationswhich “damaged the necessary trust of citizens in the neutrality and impartiality” of his management, specified the German news agency dpa.

A decade ago Schoenbohm co-founded a cybersecurity group that brings together experts from public institutions and the private sector. German media reported that one of its members is a company founded by a former Russian intelligence agent and who was expelled, the group said last week.

The German government said more than a week ago that it was thoroughly investigating the reports.

There is growing concern in Germany that the country’s critical infrastructure could be attacked by Russia. because of the support that Berlin has given Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

In early October, an apparent act of sabotage forced the German railway company Deutsche Bahn to stop passenger and freight trains in the northwest of the country for nearly three hours.

After the nearly three-hour suspension, Deutsche Bahn said the problem, a “fault in the train’s digital radio system”, had been resolved, but some outages could still be expected. He later stated that the outage was caused by sabotage.

Schoenbohm, 53, has led the BSI since February 2016. It was not immediately clear who would succeed him.

At the beginning of October, an apparent act of sabotage forced the German railway company Deutsche Bahn to stop passenger and freight trains in the northwest of the country for almost three hours (EFE/Sascha Steinbach)
At the beginning of October, an apparent act of sabotage forced the German railway company Deutsche Bahn to stop passenger and freight trains in the northwest of the country for almost three hours (EFE/Sascha Steinbach)

The ministry said Faeser’s decision also benefited Schoenbohm himself and the agency’s 1,500 employees and their ability to work without suspicion on their staff, it reported. DPA.

He added that while the accusations are being investigated, there is a presumption of innocence for Schoenbohm.

The German news weekly Der Spiegel it quoted Schoenbohm as saying that since there had been “no feedback” on the accusations, he had asked Monday for disciplinary proceedings to be opened to clarify the matter.

He said he still did not know “what the ministry has examined or what the specific accusations against me are.”

On the other hand, on October 6, the European Union imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia, which extend trade restrictions as well as the number of people included in a blacklist, after the annexations by Moscow of Ukrainian regions.

These new measures, published in the Official diary of the EU, constitute the eighth pack of sanctions of the bloc against Russia, and they come into force from this Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of German railways Deutsche Bahn is displayed outside the Cologne-Bonn Airport train station in Cologne.  July 28, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/
FILE PHOTO: A logo of German railways Deutsche Bahn is displayed outside the Cologne-Bonn Airport train station in Cologne. July 28, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/

They are a “response to Russia’s escalation in the illegal war that continues to be waged against Ukraine, illustrated by the annexation of Ukrainian territories after mock ‘referendums’, the mobilization of additional troops and the clearly branded threat of the nuclear weapon” the European Commission.

These sanctions also prepare the implementation of the cap on Russian oil prices agreed by the G7, and foresees prohibiting EU citizens from holding a position within the management bodies of certain companies controlled by the Russian state.

This new round of EU measures introduces Russian import bans worth 7,000 million euros (similar in dollars), in order to reduce Moscow’s income.

Also, 30 persons and seven entities have been added to a blacklist that already has a total of more than 1,300 names, with frozen assets and prohibition of entry or residence in the EU.

The individuals and entities added are “involved in the Russian occupation, illegal annexation, and sham ‘referendums‘ in the occupied territories of the Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions”.

(With information from AP)

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