French Citizen Arrested in Russia on Suspicion of Espionage and Violating “Foreign Agents” Law

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French Citizen Arrested in Russia on Suspicion of Espionage and Violating “Foreign Agents” Law

Russian authorities have arrested a French citizen, Laurent Vinatier, who was working for a Geneva-based conflict mediation organisation. The arrest comes amid accusations that Vinatieri was gathering sensitive information related to the Russian military and failing to register as a “foreign agent.”

The State Investigative Committee alleges that Vinatieri had been purposefully collecting information on military and military-technical activities of the Russian Federation over several years. This information could potentially be used against the security interests of the state. A brief video released by the committee shows masked officers apprehending Vinatier on the terrace of a central Moscow restaurant before escorting him into a police van.

French Citizen Arrested In Russia On Suspicion Of Espionage And Violating “foreign Agents” Law

Although the video obscured Vinatier’s face, the state-run TASS news agency confirmed his identity. His lawyer, Alexei Sinitsin, stated that Vinatieri faces charges under Russia’s “foreign agents” law. However, investigators assert that he was actively gathering military intelligence that could be exploited by foreign states against Russia.

Vinatier, 47, worked as an adviser on Russia and Eurasia for the nonprofit Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). The organization is now striving to secure his release, stating, “We are working to get more details of the circumstances and to secure Laurent’s release.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has denied any official connection between Vinatier and the French government. He characterised Vinatier’s arrest as part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Moscow.

The “foreign agents” law in Russia requires individuals who receive foreign support or are under “foreign influence” to register as such. HD, founded by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, focuses on addressing and mediating armed conflicts worldwide.

This arrest is part of a broader trend in Russia, where charges of spying and collecting sensitive data have escalated since the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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