Russia arrests a French employee at a non-governmental organization, and France describes him as a “provocateur.”

Laurent Vinatier

Noos News

Russia arrested a French citizen on suspicion of espionage. The suspect is Laurent Vinatier, a consultant for a Swiss-based conflict resolution NGO. A Russian investigative committee says it will ask the court to detain the Frenchman.

According to Russia, the NGO employee was guilty of collecting information about Russian military activities without registering as a so-called “foreign agent.”

According to France, such a recording is nonsense, because Vinatier is not. French President Macron said of the accusation, “He is a French citizen who works for a Swiss non-governmental organization. He is in no way a person who works for the French state.”


According to Macron, Vinatier’s arrest is linked to increased tensions between France and Russia. French Le Monde newspaper He writes that according to Macron this is a provocation by the Kremlin against France.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that consular protection for the Frenchman was requested from the French embassy in Moscow. The embassy also requested more details about this case.

A video was shared on X showing Vinatier being arrested from a balcony in Moscow:

According to his LinkedIn page, Laurent Vinatier works as a political consultant and analyst, and his work includes Russia. He visited Russia several times and met Russian citizens during those visits.

According to Russian law, anyone who receives foreign support or falls under foreign influence must register as a foreign agent. This includes NGOs and journalists. There is much criticism of this law by human rights organizations, which are themselves subject to this law.

Controversial law

If someone does not register as a foreign agent and it is later concluded that they should have done so, that person risks high fines or years in prison. The law was tightened further in 2022. Even without proof of funding, Russia can now classify people as foreign agents if authorities believe someone is under “foreign influence.”

The law makes the work of critics, human rights organizations, NGOs, media and (political) activists impossible. For example, many NGOs have ceased their work in Russia. Foreign journalists can be deported if they are designated as agents by Russia.

A similar law was passed in Georgia this week, despite months of protests by opponents.

Georgian law is modeled on Russian law. Under Georgia’s new rules, media outlets and other organizations must register as foreign agents if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad. The European Commission had previously expressed its disappointment regarding this measure.

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