Top French military officer arrested; reported Russia ties

Paris, Aug 30 (AP) | Publish Date: 8/30/2020 9:36:37 AM IST

A senior French army officer based abroad has been arrested and handed preliminary treason charges for sharing highly sensitive intelligence with a foreign power, authorities said Sunday.

Europe-1 radio reported that the lieutenant colonel is accused of passing “ultra-sensitive” information to Russian secret services. It reported that the officer served on a NATO base in Italy, and was arrested while on vacation in France.

French authorities would not confirm which foreign power the senior officer is suspected of spying for.

Defence Minister Florence Parly said the officer is under investigation for “serious security breaches.” Speaking on Europe-1 on Sunday, Parly said the French military has taken “necessary protective measures” as a result.

A treason investigation was opened in late July after the Defense Ministry alerted the Paris prosecutor’s office to suspect activity, according to a judicial official.

The officer was arrested and given preliminary charges Aug. 21 of compromising national defense secrets, sharing intelligence with a foreign power that threatens the nation’s fundamental interests and other counts, the official told The Associated Press. 

 The official was not authorized to be publicly identified discussing an ongoing investigation.

NATO said the organization does not comment on intelligence issues, noted that there is a judicial process underway and referred questions to French authorities.

The Russian Embassy in France did not comment.

The French defense minister also said Sunday that France is putting “massive investment” into military activities in space – notably after a 2018 incident in which a Russian satellite cozied up to a French one in an apparent effort to eavesdrop on secure military communications. 


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