Curiouser and curiouser. The IDF attaché to Russia, Col. Vadim Leiderman, was arrested and summarily deported, along with his family, for allegedly spying for Israel.
Israel’s military attaché to Moscow Col. Vadim Leiderman was arrested and deported from Russia this week over allegations that he was spying.
The 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.
The background and analysis:
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.
According to this Maariv report (Hebrew only), the Russians attempted to turn Leiderman into a double agent. When he refused he was deported under spurious indictments. The report states that he wasn’t actually arrested since he carries a diplomatic passport. He was simply “asked to accompany” some police officers. An offer he couldn’t refuse apparently.
Here is the Hebrew; the translation will follow:
אחת ההערכות הן שהמודיעין הרוסי ביקש לגייס את ליידרמן לשורותיו ולהפוך אותו לסוכן כפול. כדי לעשות כן, הפעילו הרוסים, ככל הנראה, מנוף לחץ כלשהו על ליידרמן: או ראיות לכך שאסף מידע או ראיות מסוג אחר.
ליידרמן, על פי הערכה זו, דחה את ההצעה הרוסית והרוסים החליטו לגרשו. בארץ, כאמור, נבדק ליידרמן ונמצא דובר אמת בשורה של היבטים הקשורים למגעיו עם שירותי הבטחון הרוסים. בחקירתו טען שהרוסים פירשו לא נכון את התנהגותו וכי לטענות אין כל בסיס.
כדאי לשים לב לתיזמון: הגירוש יוצא לפועל זמן לא רב לאחר שנתניהו שב מביקור רשמי במוסקבה ועל רקע העמקת היחסים בין שתי המדינות בכל התחומים. רק השבוע למשל נודע כי טיל רוסי ישגר לחלל את הלווין עמוס 4.
הרקע האמיתי לגירוש לא ברור. אולם יש לקחת בחשבון כמה דברים: קודם כל, שליידרמן פעל לקדם עסקאות נשק בין ישראל לרוסיה. שתי המדינות עומדות לחתום בקרוב מאוד על הסכם סודיות לשיתוף פעולה צבאי, שישמש פלטפורמה לעסקאות נשק.
One assumption is that the Russian Intelligence attempted to recruit Vadim Leiderman into their ranks. a double agent, and when he refused he was deported. In order to do this the Russians apparently brought great pressure to bear on Leiderman: either proof that he was spying or some other proof.
Leiderman, according to this estimation, refused the Russian offer and the Russians decided to deport him. In Israel Leiderman was questioned and found that he was telling the truth on all aspects relating to his relationship with the Russian security services. During his investigation he claimed that the Russians misinterpreted his behaviour and that there is no basis to their claims.
It is worth noting the timing: the deportation occurred shortly after Netanyahu returned from an official visit to Moscow and against the background of deepening relationship between the 2 counties in all fields. Just this week for example we learned that Russia will launch the Israeli satellite Amos 4.
The true background to the deportation is unclear. But one must take into account several things: firstly, that Leiderman worked to advance arms deals between Israel and Russia. Both countries are about to sign a secrecy agreement regarding military cooperation, which will serve as a platform for arms deals.
Odder and odder. I doubt we will ever hear the full truth about this story.