Cleared for publication: The Israeli military attaché to Russia has come under suspicion of espionage and was expelled from the country, Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth learned Wednesday.
Military Attaché Colonel Vadim Leiderman has since been interrogated by Israeli security officials. He maintains that the allegations are baseless and false, and that the entire incident stems from a misunderstanding.
The IDF and the Defense Ministry said that the suspicions have been investigated and found to be untrue.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are being kept abreast of any development in the case.
The last few days have seen hectic efforts by Israel to appease Moscow and stop the already grave diplomatic incident from escalating further, but the Russians seem adamant to exhaust all the legal measures at their disposal against the officer.
Military attachés hold pivotal roles in Israeli missions worldwide. The military attaché represents Israel in all matters pertaining to security and its security interests, serves and the liaison between the IDF and the hosting nation's armed forces, represents the Israeli Military Industries, and is the ambassador's security advisor.
The expulsion of a military attaché is a highly irregular episode and Jerusalem is treating it as an extremely serious event.
Jerusalem sources noted that the exact reason for Leiderman's expulsion remains unclear, as Moscow has offered only scarce details on the case.
Nevertheless, it seems the Moscow suspected Leiderman of using field agents to gather sensitive information.
Israel has substantial political and security interests in Russia, which are compounded by its various arms deals with Syria. Jerusalem is now concentrating on damage control.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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