Russia arrests an employee of a French NGO, and President Macron speaks of “provocation”

Russia arrests an employee of a French NGO, and President Macron speaks of “provocation”

Russia arrested French citizen Laurent Vinatier on Friday on suspicion of espionage. Vinatier works as a consultant for the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Swiss-based NGO that works on conflict resolution. A Russian investigative committee announced that it would ask the court to detain the Frenchman, international news agencies wrote.

According to Russia, Vinatier is guilty of collecting information about Russian military activities without registering as a “foreign agent.” According to the law, on which a recently passed law in Georgia is based, any person who receives foreign support or is under foreign influence must register himself as a foreign agent. The law makes the work of journalists, activists and human rights organizations in Russia, among others, almost impossible.

French President Emmanuel Macron strongly opposed Vinatier’s arrest on Friday. “He is a French citizen who works for a Swiss NGO. He is in no way a person who works for the French state,” the French newspaper said the world He writes that Macron sees the arrest as a new “provocation” by the Kremlin against France, after the spread of “fake news” and Russian “threats” in the past.

The law has been in effect in Russia for years, but was tightened in 2022. If, according to the judge, a person should have registered as a foreign agent but did not do so, that person risks imprisonment for years. The French embassy in Moscow asked the Russian authorities for more details, but has not yet received a response. The embassy also requested consular protection for Vinatier.

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