The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday confirmed that Israel's military attaché to Moscow Col. Vadim Leiderman was caught receiving secret information from a Russian citizen on May 12 and subsequently expelled from the country, Russian news agency Novosti reported on Thursday.

Leiderman was declared persona non grata "in connection with activity incompatible with his diplomatic status" and ordered to leave Russia "within 48 hours, which he did," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

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On Wednesday,  Israel's  Defense Ministry said in a statement that Leiderman – an air force officer and fluent Russian speaker – was arrested last week by Russian security authorities and questioned at length on suspicions that he was spying on behalf of Israel.

The arrest came as a delegation of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee visited Moscow under the leadership of committee chairman Shaul Mofaz.

Israeli-Russian military ties have had their ups and downs in recent years. Israel openly criticized Russia earlier this year for supplying Syria with advanced Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles that the IDF fears will be transferred to return from Moscow, Leiderman was questioned by security authorities who ruled out the allegations that the attaché was operating as a spy in Russia.

Israeli officials said they were surprised by the subsequent deportation and that they had yet to receive explanations from Russia.

In 2009, Russia expelled an Israeli diplomat who served in Moscow as a representative of Nativ under similarly mysterious circumstances.

Then, too, the diplomat was given 48 hours to leave the country.

In a 2009 interview with the IDF magazine Bamachane, Leiderman explained the complicated relationship Israel maintained with the Russia military.

“Our fears about Russia are clear and there is historic baggage that we all remember since Russia was once the largest weapons supplier of our enemies,” he said then.

“Add to this the fear that the Israeli technology will make its way to countries that could then turn it against us, and of course our relations with the United States that we would never do anything to endanger.”

Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, who participated in the Knesset trip to Russia, said he was completely surprised by the deportation but said that he had heard that this was commonly done to countries and not just Israel.

“We encountered tight ties and close cooperation as well as a lot of sympathy for Israel,” Plesner said. “On the other hand, we heard that there are cases like this when Russia suddenly deports foreign diplomats from various countries. This is the way they operate.”



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