Russia Warned Israel Before Arresting Military Attache

Russian newspaper reports that Russian Foreign Ministry warned Israeli Air Force Colonel Vadim Leiderman as early as November 2009 to desist from activities that violate diplomatic agreements.

Russia had warned Israel three times over 18 months about the behavior of military attache Colonel Vadim Leiderman before arresting him and expelling him from the country last week, a Moscow newspaper reported yesterday.

Komsomolskaya Pravda published a picture of what it said was the first written warning the Russian Foreign Ministry had sent to the Israeli Embassy in November 2009, in which the Russians complained that Leiderman was making contact with Russian military and other officials without coordinating with the Russian foreign and defense ministries.

Vadim Leiderman

Another written protest was sent in April 2010. After a third warning was sent in December, the Israeli Embassy promised that "all the activities of the military attache in the embassy, Vadim Leiderman, would be conducted in strict compliance with the Vienna Convention," which governs diplomatic relations.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, a paper with close ties to the Russian Defense Ministry and the local military industries, described Leiderman as a "talented agent," saying that during his three years in Moscow he had made close friends in both houses of the Russian Parliament, in the civilian and military prosecutors' offices, among the managers of the major airports and officials in secretive government offices, such as the one responsible for Russian military exports.

The paper said Leiderman had tried to obtain information about pending Russian arms sales to Middle Eastern countries. Israeli defense experts were also hoping to get fat contracts for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the paper said, and in this realm, too, Leiderman had succeeded in reaching suppliers of crucial information.

In fact, the paper reported, during his tenure Leiderman successfully concluded only one contract, which sent Russia a number of drones. Other contracts worth millions of dollars were left hanging at the tentative agreement stage, it said.

Leiderman was arrested on May 12 in a restaurant as he was shutting a laptop on whose screen was a document Russian officials described as "highly classified." A Russian citizen he was dining with was also arrested.

While being held, Leiderman insisted there had been "a misunderstanding." He was expelled at the end of last week.

Komsomolskaya Pravda speculated yesterday that Leiderman had not worked alone, saying that more than 20 Israeli citizens, who were connected to Leiderman but did not have diplomatic immunity, hurriedly left the country upon his arrest.