French researcher detained in Moscow as Paris announces fighter jet transfer to Ukraine — Novaya Gazeta Europe

French researcher detained in Moscow as Paris announces fighter jet transfer to Ukraine

Police in Moscow have detained a French citizen on suspicion of collecting military information that “could be used against state security”, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on Thursday.

Russian state news agency TASS identified the man as 47-year-old Laurent Vinatier, an adviser at the Switzerland-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. According to his biography on the website of the Jacques Delors Institute, a Paris-based think tank, Vinatier is an expert on Russia and Central Asia and a fluent Russian speaker whose research focus is on the Chechen wars.

As well as “purposefully collecting information on [Russia’s] military and military-technical activities”, Vinatier had failed to submit documents necessary for his inclusion in the “register of foreign agents”, the Investigative Committee said. It also posted a video appearing to show Vinatier’s arrest at a Moscow cafe by several masked law enforcement officers.

Vinatier, whose detention came just days after police in Paris arrested a Russian-Ukrainian national on bomb-making charges following an explosion in his hotel room, is thought to be the second foreign citizen detained in Russia for failing to register as a “foreign agent”. In October, Russian-American Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested in Kazan on similar charges. Violating Russia’s “foreign agent” law carries a maximum sentence of five years behind bars.

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue later confirmed Vinatier’s detention and told the Associated Press that it was working to “get more details of the circumstances and to secure Laurent’s release”.

In a live appearance on French news channel TF1 on Thursday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron denied that Vinatier was working for the French government and said he would receive consular protection as France sought to “restore the truth in the face of misinformation”.

Macron also told TF1 that France would equip and train 4,500 Ukrainian soldiers and provide Ukraine with French Mirage 2000 fighter jets to help the country defend itself amid the “huge challenges” it faced training troops.

“We still have the same philosophy: we’ll help the Ukrainians to resist. But we do not want an escalation of the war and under no circumstances are we at war with Russia and its people”, Macron said, adding that training Ukrainian troops “in the western zone, which is a free zone”, was “not aggressive towards Russia.”

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