The detention of a Frenchman, a “message” sent by Moscow

“The images have become sadly banal”, regret The weather. “The official Russian media lingered for a long time”Friday June 7, “on the cage where the accused was placed, in the Zamoskvoretsky courtroom, in Moscow: Laurent Vinatier, the French researcher specializing in Russia”.

The court on Friday placed in pre-trial detention until August 5 this collaborator of a Swiss conflict resolution NGO, arrested Thursday, who pleaded guilty to not having registered as a “foreign agent” while collecting information on the Russian army. The French national, aged 47, faces a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Laurent Vinatier had asked the court to place him under house arrest rather than placing him in detention, because he has two dependent children, noted The Times, who relays information from the Russian news agency Tass. His lawyer said the Frenchman only registered as a “foreign agent” because he was unfamiliar with Russian law.

Tight relationships”

According to French President Emmanuel Macron, Laurent Vinatier is not “never (…) someone who worked, who works for France”.

His employer, the Swiss NGO Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), said Friday it was “everything possible to help” Mr. Vinatier, who “lives in Switzerland and travels regularly for work”.

The Investigative Committee, a powerful Russian body, had previously published a video showing a man, in jeans and a black shirt and with a blurred face, being arrested in a restaurant by masked security agents, then put in a van and taken to a building.

“The nature of the arrest of Laurent Vinatier, filmed and immediately broadcast everywhere, leaves no room for doubt: it is obviously a question for Moscow of sending a message, and of making it known”analysis The weather.

His placement in detention comes at a time when relations between Paris and Moscow are “tense” since the Russian offensive in Ukraine in 2022, explains it BBC.

The Times notes for its part that the arrest occurred the day after the arrest in the Paris region of a Russian-Ukrainian suspected of having planned violent action in connection with a “terrorist” enterprise in France. “France is seen as a potential target of Russia due to Mr Macron’s refusal to rule out sending Western soldiers to Ukraine”writes the newspaper, which recalls that Emmanuel Macron declared Thursday that Paris planned to supply Mirage 2000 war planes to Ukraine.


Laurent Vinatier has visited Russia several times for several years and held meetings with Russian nationals, notes the BBC.

Russia requires anyone receiving foreign support or influence to register as a “foreign agent.” “She used the 2012 law to crush any opposition to President Vladimir Putin inside the country, and also as a pretext to detain people, including foreigners”, underlines the British channel. Last year, Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested on a similar charge.

Russian law on “foreign agents” is often used “on pretext”, abounds Deutsche Welle. The current law, “More Strict”came into force in June 2022. “Since then, it has been used repeatedly to suppress dissent and several people have been arrested.”

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