Russia jails French NGO worker for collecting military data, flouting 'foreign agent' law

A court in Moscow on Friday ordered a French citizen accused of collecting information on military issues in Russia be held in jail pending investigation and trial.

Laurent Vinatier was arrested in the Russian capital on Thursday as tensions have flared between Moscow and Paris following French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements about the possibility of deploying the country’s troops in Ukraine.

The authorities accused Vinatier of failing to register as a “foreign agent” while collecting information about Russia’s “military and military-technical activities,” which could be used to the detriment of the country’s security.

They did not provide details of the accusations beyond alleging that Vinatier repeatedly traveled to Russia to collect this information. Under Russian law, it is a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

Vinatier appeared in court on Friday. Russia’s state news agency Tass cited his lawyer as saying in the courtroom that Vinatier admitted his guilt and maintained that he simply didn’t know about the requirement. The report also said Vinatier apologized to the court.

The judge ordered the man to be remanded in pre-trial detention until Aug. 5.

Vinatier is an adviser with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization.


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