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French Consultant Detained in Russia for Allegedly Violating’ Foreign Agents’ Law

WorldRussiaFrench Consultant Detained in Russia for Allegedly Violating' Foreign Agents' Law

June 7, 2024 – Moscow, Russia

Russian law enforcement authorities have detained a French citizen on suspicion of gathering military-related information and accused him of violating the country’s strict “foreign agents” law.

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The Russian Investigative Committee, which is responsible for probing major crimes, announced the detention on Thursday, though they did not publicly identify the man.

However, sources have indicated that the detainee is Laurent Vinatier, a consultant at the Switzerland-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

The Investigative Committee stated that the suspect had been engaged in the targeted collection of Russian defense and military-technical information for several years.

“The suspect carried out a targeted collection of Russian defense and military-technical information for several years,” the Committee’s statement read.

“To this end, he repeatedly visited the territory of Russia, including the city of Moscow, where he held meetings with citizens of the Russian Federation.”

In a video released by the investigators, masked agents are seen approaching Vinatier at a restaurant and escorting him away. The footage later shows him being brought into an Investigative Committee building, his face blurred to obscure his identity.

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The Committee asserted that Vinatier had collected materials with the intention of evading the requirements under Russian law to submit documents necessary for inclusion in the “foreign agent” registry.

The state-run TASS news agency, citing an anonymous law enforcement official, identified the man as Laurent Vinatier, born in 1976.

Vinatieri is a consultant at the Swiss Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, dealing with Eurasian issues since the Ukrainian crisis in February 2014.

According to a LinkedIn profile believed to belong to him, Vinatier serves as an advisor at the Eurasia/Russia Program at the organization and holds a PhD in political science.

While Vinatier is not facing charges of espionage, the accusation of violating the “foreign agents” law could lead to severe penalties.

The law mandates that individuals or organizations receiving foreign funding and engaging in political activities must register as foreign agents, subjecting them to stringent reporting requirements and oversight.

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Non-compliance can result in fines and imprisonment, with Vinatier facing up to five years in prison if convicted.

The timing of Vinatier’s arrest is notable, occurring just one day after French authorities detained a 26-year-old man from Ukraine’s Donbas region on suspicion of attempting to manufacture explosives and planning a violent act.

While there is no indication that the two arrests are connected, they underscore the tense geopolitical climate and the scrutiny faced by foreign nationals in both countries.

The Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, where Vinatier is employed, is an organization based in Switzerland that focuses on conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts around the world.

The organization’s mission and Vinatier’s advisory role suggest that his activities in Russia were likely related to his professional duties. However, the specifics of the charges and the nature of the information Vinatier is accused of collecting remain unclear.

This case highlights the increasing use of the “foreign agents” law in Russia to regulate and control foreign involvement in domestic affairs. The law has been criticized by human rights organizations for its broad scope and potential to stifle dissent and international cooperation.

As the investigation proceeds, the international community will be watching closely, particularly given the strained relations between Russia and Western nations.

Vinatier’s detention serves as a stark reminder of the precarious position of foreign nationals working in politically sensitive areas and the stringent regulations governing their activities in Russia.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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