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Germany's cybersecurity chief fired over accusations of ties to Russia – Der Spiegel

The German Interior Ministry has fired Arne Schönbohm, head of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), who is suspected of ties with the Russian secret services, Der Spiegel reports, citing its sources.

“The Interior Ministry immediately dismissed the head of the BSI and launched a disciplinary investigation,” Der Spiegel wrote.

Der Spiegel and Handelsblatt, citing sources in the government, reported in early October that Interior Minister Nancy Feather was about to fire Schoenbohm because according to a report by ZDF’s Magazin Royale there was a connection between Russian special services and the organization Cyber-Security Council of Germany (Cyber-Sicherheitsrat Deutschland). The organization had been co-founded by Schönbohm, who headed it until 2016. Besides him, the council included Huawei, the German energy giants Eon, EnBW, and Vatenfall, the German Ministry of Health, and the police union.

The Council also included the cybersecurity company Infotecs GmbH, which changed its name to Protelion in the spring. Protelion is a subsidiary of Russia-based Infotecs. According to Policy Network Analytics, its founder and CEO Andrei Chapchayev used to work for one of the KGB departments.

According to Handelsblatt, Schönbohm was advised several times to distance himself from the Council, after which he instructed employees of his department “not to appear together with representatives of the association.”

In the spring, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder lost some of his privileges because of his ties to Russia. The budget committee decided to cut funding for Schroeder's office and fire the staff. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also urged Schroeder to leave his posts in Russian state-owned companies. At the end of May, Schroeder resigned from Rosneft’s board of directors and declared it was “impossible to renew his powers” - he was threatened with sanctions. In August, Schroeder sued the Bundestag.

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