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Russia: a Frenchman arrested in Moscow, suspected of collecting military information

Russia announced want to present Friday &at; a French judge, Laurent Vinatier, working for a Swiss NGO for conflict resolution and judgment; the day before à Moscow, an affair occurring at the height of Russian-French tensions.

He is suspected of illegally gathering information on Russia's military activities, but has been formally prosecuted at this stage for violating a law dealing with “foreign agents”, legislation used by Moscow to repress its detractors, and an offense punishable by five years in prison.

But the language of the investigators, who speak of a “targeted collection of information in the field of Russia's military and military-technical activities”, suggests even more serious prosecutions.

The information he would have collected, “if obtained by foreign sources, could be used against the security of the Russian state”, said the same source without further details.

According to sources interviewed by AFP, Mr. Vinatier, born in 1976, had worked for many years on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as part of discreet diplomatic efforts in parallel of the States. The employer of this Frenchman, the Swiss NGO Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, requested on Thursday “the release” of his collaborator.

– Preventive detention –< /p>

“Investigators intend to ask the Zamoskvoretski district court of Moscow to take a security measure against the accused,” the Russian Investigative Committee said, without specifying whether it would request a placement in preventive detention as is generally the case in these cases.

French President Emmanuel Macron indicated Thursday evening on French television that “in no case will “was someone who worked, who works for France” and that he worked for a Swiss NGO “which does diplomacy”.

“He will receive all the consular protections that are appropriate in such a case But I wanted here to reestablish the truth in the face of the intoxications that we hear,” he said.

.Mr. Vinatier had been working for years on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, triggered in 2014 by the Russian annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. According to several sources interviewed by AFP, he was engaged in discreet diplomacy, traveling to both Russia and Ukraine even after the Russian assault of February 24, 2022.

HD mediators indeed worked confidentially and outside the constraints of traditional diplomacy, which allows informal contacts between adversaries, but also exposes these actors to accusations of espionage.

Christophe Lemoine, spokesperson for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, indicated that Paris has “demanded information from the (Russian) Investigative Committee on the reason for the arrest of our compatriot”.

– Paris-Moscow tensions –

The announced arrest of this Frenchman comes in the midst of an increase in Russian tensions- French, precisely because of Ukraine.

Paris is trying to convince its allies to send military instructors to this country to train Ukrainian troops, who are in difficulty facing Moscow's forces. Mr. Macron also spoke of sending troops, provoking the anger of the Kremlin and new threats of escalation.

In addition, the arrest came the day after the arrest of a Russian-Ukrainian, suspected of having planned violent action in France, unless two months before the start of the Olympic Games in Paris, a security challenge for the French authorities.

Moscow is also suspected of multiple actions of interference, intimidation or disinformation in France, accusations that Russia described as “Russophobic”.

Among the actions for which the hand of Moscow is suspected: coffins installed at the beginning of June at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, tags in May on the Holocaust memorial, blue Stars of David stencilled in Paris and its suburbs in October 2023.

Russia holds several Americans in its prisons and is accused of making such arrests and then negotiating prisoner exchanges in order to free its agents.

This is particularly the case of American journalist Evan Gershkovich, accused of spying in Russia despite his denials, those of his relatives, his country and his employer. Moscow seems to want to exchange him for a man convicted in Germany for having committed an assassination on behalf of the Russian special services.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116