‘Anyone who has experienced violence is at risk’ after returning home, intelligence chief warns
Only a small number of Austrian citizens are currently fighting in Ukraine, but their return to the country still poses a security risk, said Omar Haijawi-Pirchner, who heads the Directorate of State Security and Intelligence (DSN). .
Security services are “aware of a low double-digit number” Austrians now taking part in the conflict between kyiv and Moscow, Haijawi-Pirchner said in an interview with Kronen Zeitung on Thursday.
However, the DSN, which was created in early 2021 in response to a deadly attack by an Islamist gunman in Vienna a few months earlier, is still concerned about these individuals, he said.
“Anyone who has experienced violence presents a risk on their return”, Haijawi-Pirchner explained.
The agency also worked to ensure that weapons supplied to Ukraine by the West did not end up in the hands of organized crime groups or terrorists, he added.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, which among other things caused a spike in inflation, will have “a long-term impact on internal security”, said the intelligence chief.
“Right-wing extremism is reinforced, among other things, by the war in Ukraine. Islamist terrorism is on the rise again.
Thousands of foreign fighters arrived in Ukraine after the launch of the Russian military operation on February 24, responding to a call from President Vladimir Zelensky.
In April, the Russian military estimated the number of “mercenaries” at nearly 7,000, but earlier this month said there were only 2,741 foreign fighters left in Ukraine. Many of them were eliminated, while others fled to their countries of origin.
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Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov recently warned that mercenaries are not considered combatants under international law and “The best thing that awaits them if they are captured alive is a trial and maximum prison terms.”