German court tries army reservist suspected of spying for Russia

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - A former officer in Germany's army reserve force went on trial on Thursday on charges of spying for Russia, in a case that could worsen relations deeply strained by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Prosecutors have said Ralph G., whose family name cannot be fully disclosed under German privacy laws, provided Russian agents with "numerous documents and information" about the German army from October 2014 until March 2020, when he was deputy commander of a squad.

"We believe the accused was in contact with Russian intelligence service GRU via several persons, particularly at the Russian Embassy in Berlin," federal prosecutor Gerd Kaiser said at the courthouse on Thursday.

Neither Ralph G nor his lawyer commented on the case on Thursday.

Strains between Russia and the NATO military alliance have risen to levels unseen since the Cold War after the West imposed tough sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Germany's federal prosecution has also accused Ralph G. of supplying Russian agents with information about Nord Stream 2, the pipeline owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom and which Germany halted in February.

They also said he had given Russian agents information about Germany's reserve force and civil defence. Through him, Russia's secret service also obtained personal and contact details of high-ranking officers in the military and prominent corporate managers, the prosecution has said.

The suspect is also accused of helping his Russian handlers understand U.S. defence policies with its partners in the NATO military alliance, the prosecutor said.

"We could not find evidence that he was paid for these deliveries. It was just striking that he repeatedly received invitations to official Russian events," Kaiser said.

(Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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