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Russian authorities arrest a French citizen accused of collecting information about Russian Army

Laurent Vinatier, an official working for a Swiss NGO, joins the long list of Western citizens detained in Russia.

Las autoridades rusas detienen a un ciudadano francés acusado de recopilar información sobre su Ejército

Momento de la detención. (Captura de pantalla

Thursday, June 6, Russia reported that it detained a French citizen who was allegedly acting as a “foreign agent” while collecting information from the Russian Army, according to the authorities of that country.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee (SK), a police body that investigates crimes, “Such information, if obtained by foreign sources, may be used against the security of the state.”

Russian state media reported that the detainee is Laurent Vinatier, an employee of a Swiss-based center called the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, which is dedicated to building bridges with difficult countries or closed governments in search of international peace. The organization, according to The Wall Street Journal, is close to the leaders of Switzerland, a historically neutral country in diplomatic terms that, after the outbreak of the war between Russia and Ukraine, was declared by Russia as a hostile nation for joining the sanctions against the Kremlin.

According to John O'Callaghan, the group's head of communications, Vinatier was working in Russia as an advisor to the organization that is already aware of the French citizen's arrest: "We are working to get more details of the circumstances and to secure Laurent’s release."

The official also stated that the organization was seeking to mediate the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

In a video published on social networks you can see the moment in which the French citizen is arrested while, apparently, he was sitting in an outdoor cafe. In the video the faces of the Russian agents and the citizen detained are blurred.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Vinatier has been an employee of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue since 2014 and his work focuses on Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries.

Among his functions, he highlighted the design of dialogue processes, the facilitation of meetings and the creation of networks towards states that are difficult to access.

However, the Russian Investigative Committee accused Vinatier of collecting information about the Russian military for years and then discussing what he learned with contacts he had met on visits to Moscow.

The committee also announced that Vinatier will be charged in the near future. A punishment for this alleged crime could mean up to five years in prison in Russia.

The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, has already spoken about the arrest, ensuring that the detainee is "in no case someone who worked for France."

Vinatier's arrest and Macron's words come at a time when tension between Russia and France has been at a high point since 2022, after the invasion of Ukraine.

The capture of the French citizen also sharply raises concerns about Western citizens being captured in Russia and then used as bargaining chips, security experts warn.

There are many emblematic cases of Western citizens being unjustly detained in Russia. One of the most notable is that of journalist Evan Gershkovich, of the Wall Street Journal, held in a Moscow prison due to an accusation of espionage against him.

The reporter, the newspaper and the U.S. government all deny that Gershkovich is a spy.