Some 3,000 police officers in Germany raided 130 sites in 11 of the country’s 16 states early Wednesday to foil a plot to overthrow the government.
The far-right extremists were allegedly plotting install Heinrich XIII P.R. as leader of a future state. Heinrich is a former member of the House of Reuss, a German royal family that once ruled over parts of eastern Germany.
Prosecutors said 22 German citizens and three foreign nationals – including a Russian citizen – were taken into custody in what Justice Minister Marco Buschmann described as an “anti-terrorism operation.”
One person was detained in the Austrian town of Kitzbuehel and another was arrested in the Italian city of Perugia. One suspect was a well-known 71-year-old member of a minor German noble family, while the other was a 69-year-old former paratrooper, according to a report by Der Spiegel.
Investigators suspected the suspects planned an armed attack on state institutions, including the lower house of the German parliament in Berlin, the Bundestag, prosecutors said.
The detainees were members and supporters of Reichsbuerger (“Citizens of the Reich”), a far-right group whose members do not recognize modern-day Germany as a legitimate state and who were inspired by the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
One active soldier and several reservists were among those under investigation, as well as a former parliamentarian from the far-right Alternative for German (AfD), a military intelligence spokesperson told Reuters.
The AfD party condemned the plot.
“The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbuerger milieu,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement, adding that the constitutional state knows how to defend itself against “the enemies of democracy.”
Heinrich had reached out to representatives of Russia, prosecutors said, but there is no evidence those representatives responded positively to the request.
Nevertheless, security agencies are scrutinizing all possible contacts with Russia, an Interior Ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Russia has denied any involvement in the plot, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying it “appears to be a German internal problem.”
Plotters would also have installed another suspect, Ruediger v. P., to become the head of the military arm who would build a new Germany army, prosecutors said.