(Bloomberg) -- An investigative journalist who exposed Kremlin spies and sought to document the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said he fled Vienna for fear of undercover agents operating in his home of two decades.

Warnings from intelligence circles prompted Christo Grozev to cancel a recent return to Vienna from the US, the Falter magazine said, citing a conversation with the Bulgarian citizen. 

“I suspect there are more Russian agents, spies and henchman in the city than police officers,” Grozev told Falter from Utah.

Grozev is the lead Russia investigator for news website Bellingcat, which has published exposes on a wide range of alleged Russian spy operations, including surveillance related to the poisoning of Navalny. Russia has denied any role in his poisoning. Authorities there branded Bellingcat an ‘undesirable’ organization, banning its operations, and put Grozev on the wanted list.

READ: Putin, Poison and the Importance of Alexey Navalny: QuickTake

Grozev didn’t immediately respond to an email and text message seeking comment.

Surrounded by North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, militarily neutral Austria is a hub for international organizations and has long considered itself a bridge between Europe’s east and west.

But that posture has come under strain since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Twenty member states have called on Austria’s government to block visa applications for Russian delegates attending an annual meeting of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe later this month, according to a letter seen by Die Presse and confirmed by the Foreign Ministry.

In a rare move, Austria’s Foreign Ministry expelled four Russian diplomats on Thursday due to activities that violated their mandate. It didn’t elaborate on what those activities were.


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