Austria has arrested a retired army colonel on suspicion of spying for Russia, chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.

The officer is accused of beginning to work for Russian intelligence in the 1990s and continued to maintain the relationship until 2018, Mr Kurz told a news conference.

The chancellor said the case and allegations of espionage in the Netherlands, “don’t improve relations between Russia and the European Union”.

Earlier this year, the Netherlands expelled four Russians it suspected of planning a cyber-attack on the worlds chemical weapons watchdog in the Hague.

“At the moment we’re demanding transparent information from Russia," Mr Kurz said. “Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned.”

Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl summoned the Russian ambassador over the matter and cancelled an upcoming trip to Moscow, the chancellor added.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was “unpleasantly surprised” by the allegations, Rusian news agencies RIA and Interfax reported,

Austria’s defence minister Mario Kunasek said Vienna was warned “a few weeks ago” by a friendly European intelligence agency about the suspected spy.

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Mr Kunasek said the colonel in question retired five years ago. The man’s electronic devices, including  laptop, are being examined.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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