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Thursday, May 19, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Russia deports Israeli defense attache suspected of spying

TEL AVIV — Russia has detained Israel's defense attache accused of espionage.


The Israeli Defense Ministry said Israel's military attache in Moscow was detained earlier this month on suspicion of spying. The ministry said the attache, Col. Vadim Leiderman, was later deported.

"The attache's term was set to end in two months," the Defense Ministry said on May 18.

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The ministry, in a joint statement with the Israeli military, said Lederman represented both the Defense Ministry and military in Russia. The statement said Israel investigated the Russian spy claims and found them baseless.

"Security authorities in Israel completed a thorough investigation and concluded that these claims were unfounded," the ministry said.

Israeli media reports said Leiderman, preparing to return to Israel in July, was arrested on May 12 in a Moscow restaurant when he was dining with his family. The reports said Russian intelligence agents conducted a strip search in the restaurant in front of patrons. He was then arrested.

The announcement marked the first time in nearly 20 years that Russia was reported to have arrested an Israeli diplomat on espionage. Over the last year, officials reported tension between Israel and Russia over allegations of spying in both countries.

"The military attache and Defense Ministry representative in Russia, Col. Vadim Leiderman, was last week surprisingly detained for questioning by the Russian authorities on claims of espionage, following the questioning he was given 48 hours to leave Russia," the official statement said.

Leiderman, fluent in Russian, has been an air force officer with a doctorate at Israel's Technion. His arrest, which officials said violated Leiderman's diplomatic immunity, took place during a visit to Moscow by a delegation from the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Officials said Russia has been supplying a range of missiles and other systems that have been deployed by the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah and Hamas. Moscow was said to have examined the equipment, including the AT-14 Kornet fired by Hamas in 2011, and asserted that the missile was a copy.

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