Members of a vast Russian spy network posing as diplomats have been removed from Australia without much fanfare, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) revealed on Tuesday that it had recently uncovered and dismantled a large-scale spying network, but did not specify which country the spies involved were collecting information on.
Mike Burgess, ASIO’s chief security secretary, likened the busted network to a rowdy cell of intelligence agents, more densely populated and more dangerous than any spying group previously exposed in Australia.
Although he did not provide the exact numbers, the Secretary-General said that the spies had received high-quality training because they used sophisticated techniques and methods to conceal their secret activities. Among these were the workers of embassies and consulates, as well as clients located in other regions. He added that the Australian intelligence agency removed them from the country in a confidential and professional manner.
Citing anonymous sources familiar with the details of the counterintelligence operation, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote on Thursday that the Russian spies involved had been forced out of Australia in the past six months by having their visas revoked or not renewed. According to the newspaper, the authorities decided to take the low-profile action because they feared public announcement of the deportations could lead to retaliatory measures by Moscow against Australian diplomats or Australian citizens living in Russia.
ASIO’s press department has not officially confirmed that a Russian spy network has in fact been dismantled.
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