German officials said Wednesday that they remain concerned about possible Russian propaganda before this year's elections, despite reports that Germany's spy agencies have failed to find proof of such efforts.
Daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcaster NDR reported Tuesday that the publication of a 50-page intelligence dossier was canceled for lack of a "smoking gun" linking Moscow to propaganda campaigns in Germany.
Government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer declined to confirm the reports, saying the dossier was classified.
But she suggested that Moscow's influence was visible in the way that some news outlets cover events in Germany.
"In general, one can indeed say that we perceive tendentious reporting in Russian media," Demmer said. "Due to their ownership and the way Russian media work, we can also assume that these aren't spontaneous or accidental developments."
A German security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision not to publish the dossier was made by the chancellery.
The official said that hard proof — of the kind that would stand up in court — was always difficult to come by in the murky world of intelligence gathering, but noted that Germany's domestic intelligence chief recently had commented on "growing evidence" of Russian attempts to influence this fall's German elections.
Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV security agency, said in December that politicians and parties in Germany were subject to "increasingly aggressive cyberespionage."
In an interview Wednesday with public broadcaster Phoenix, Maassen said cyberattacks were particularly difficult to trace back to a particular source. But he said more traditional methods of spycraft were still in use, and pointed the finger at Moscow.
"We have seen that the old instruments the KGB used are still used today by Russia: disinformation, infiltration, recruiting agents," he said.
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