Russia Detains French Citizen for Gathering Military Information

Russian law enforcement authorities on Thursday detained a French citizen on suspicion of gathering information about the military and accused him of violating the country’s law on “foreign agents.”

“The suspect carried out a targeted collection of Russian defense and military-technical information for several years,” Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said in a statement without identifying the man.

“To this end, he repeatedly visited the territory of Russia, including the city of Moscow, where he held meetings with citizens of the Russian Federation,” the law enforcement body added.

In a video released by investigators, masked agents could be seen approaching the man — whose face is blurred — at a restaurant and escorting him away. The video later cuts to the man being brought into an Investigative Committee building.

Investigators claimed the man collected materials “with the intention of not meeting the requirement under Russian law to submit documents needed to be added in the ‘foreign agent’ registry.”

The state-run TASS news agency, citing an anonymous law enforcement official, reported that the man is an employee of the Switzerland-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

“The detainee is Laurent Vinatier, born in 1976, he is a consultant at the Swiss Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, dealing with Eurasian issues after the coup in Ukraine in February 2014,” the official was quoted as saying.

According to the LinkedIn profile page of a man by the same name, Vinatier works as an advisor at the Eursia/Russia Program at the Switzerland-based organization and holds a PhD in political science.

The French national faces up to five years in prison on charges of breaking Russia’s “foreign agents” law. He does not appear to be facing charges of espionage, according to the Investigative Committee’s statement.

The arrest came the day after the French authorities said they arrested a 26-year-old man from eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region on suspicion of trying to make explosives and planning a violent act.


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