MOSCOW (AFP) — Moscow said Monday it was expelling an Austrian diplomat in response to Vienna’s expulsion of a Russian reported to be involved in economic espionage.

“Based on the principle of reciprocity, a diplomat with the Austrian embassy in Russia has been declared persona non grata,” the foreign ministry said in a statement after summoning the Austrian ambassador in Moscow.

“The ambassador was presented with a firm protest in connection with the unfounded decision of the Austrian side,” the statement said.

Russia Hits Back With Expulsion of Austrian Diplomat
Russian President , right, dances with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl at the 2018 wedding of Kneissl with Austrian businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in Gamlitz, southern Austria. (Roland Schlager/Pool photo via AP)

Vienna earlier confirmed it was expelling a Russian diplomat after media reported he had spied with the help of an Austrian citizen at a high-tech enterprise for years.

The Foreign Ministry said the man’s behavior had violated diplomatic relations, declining to give further details.

The Kronen Zeitung tabloid said the diplomat had been given until September 1 to leave the country.

The Russian Embassy in Vienna earlier said the expulsion order was “detrimental to constructive relations.”

Austria has boasted close ties with Russia in recent years.

In 2018, Austria said it would not follow a number of other EU countries in expelling Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, stressing its neutrality.

Raising eyebrows, former foreign minister Karin Kneissl — under Austria’s previous conservative and far-right coalition government — invited Russian President to her wedding later that year.

Both sides insisted the invitation was a private matter. But widely circulated photos of Kneissl bowing to Putin after their dance raised questions over Austria’s neutrality.

In June, a retired Austrian army colonel was jailed for three years after being convicted of spying for Russia.

The 71-year-old who has not been named “betrayed state secrets at the expense of Austria for a foreign secret service,” a Salzburg court ruled.

The verdict found he also “deliberately disclosed a military secret.”

© Agence France-Presse

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