Russia arrested a French citizen accused of being a military spy

Moscow said it had arrested a French citizen accused of gathering information about Russia’s military activities and failing to register as a “foreign agent”.

“Such information, if obtained from foreign sources, can be used against national security,” the Russian Investigative Committee (SK) said.

It also posted video footage allegedly recording the arrest of an unnamed male suspect at a cafe in Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the man did not work for France.

A Swiss-based NGO later said its adviser Laurent Vinatier had been detained in the Russian capital.

“We are aware that Laurent Vinatier, advisor at the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), has been detained in Russia,” a spokesman for the NGO told AFP news agency.

“We are working to obtain further details about the circumstances and secure Laurent’s release,” he added.

The NGO said its main activity is “preventing and resolving armed conflicts worldwide through mediation and discreet diplomacy”.

Late on Thursday, President Macron said the detained man “is not someone who is working for France”.

Relations between Paris and Moscow are tense following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

In a statement on Thursday, SK said a criminal case had been opened and the suspect would be charged in the “nearest future”.

This Frenchman said he has visited Russia many times over the years and held meetings with Russian citizens.

The 19-second video released by SK shows a man with his face blurred, being detained by Russian law enforcement officers before being led to an SK truck.

The French were also accused of not submitting the necessary documents for “inclusion in the register of foreign agents”.

Russia requires anyone receiving foreign support or foreign influence to declare themselves as such an agent. It used the 2012 law to crush all domestic opposition to President Vladimir Putin, while also using pretexts to arrest people, including foreigners.

Last year, Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested on similar charges.

This crime can carry a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

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