Russians suspected of spying for Israel now in hands of Lebanese prosecutors

Pair were arrested over alleged spying on Iran-backed Hezbollah

The Lebanese General Security said the two Russians were arrested at the airport in Beirut. EPA
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Two Russian citizens recently detained in Beirut over alleged espionage for Israel have been handed over to the military prosecutors, a general security source has confirmed to The National.

The pair were arrested “several weeks ago” in the capital while attempting to leave Lebanon via Rafik Hariri International Airport.

The investigative military judge then issued an arrest warrant for them, AP reported.

“We arrested a network of two individuals at Beirut Airport who had affiliations with the enemy [Israel] and were tasked with operations inside the country,” said the interim chief of Lebanon's General Security agency Elias Al Baysari.

“Security preservation is a red line, counter-terrorism is a priority and tackling espionage and dealing with the enemy is an absolute priority."

He did not disclose their identities or say precisely when they were detained.

“We questioned them and referred them to the specialised military judiciary,” he added.

The two Russians are suspected of spying on the Iran-backed Hezbollah group on behalf of Israel.

Pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily newspaper Al Akhbar identified the pair in question as Yuri Rinatovich Chaykin, 46, and Alexandrovia Chaykin, 44, a married couple allegedly enlisted by Israel's intelligence agency to gather information on Hezbollah.

They were arrested after the man tried to break into a flat in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shiite militia.

Russia’s embassy in Lebanon confirmed to state-owned RIA Novosti it was aware of the case and was actively seeking additional information.

“The embassy is aware of the current situation with the detention of Russian citizens in Lebanon and is taking the necessary steps to get the details from the Lebanese side,” diplomatic officials told the news agency.

Contacted by The National, the Russian embassy declined to provide additional comments.

Or Heller, a veteran military correspondent on Israel’s Channel 13 TV said “in the past, many spy networks that were attributed to Israeli intelligence have fallen in recent years, but the security establishment and the Israeli army do not comment on these reports published in Lebanon, neither denying nor confirming”.

Maariv, an Israeli daily newspaper, said “Israel does not need Russians or other foreigners for espionage”.

Lebanon has arrested 185 people suspected of collaborating with Israel since the onset of the economic collapse in 2019, AFP reported.

Lebanon is technically at war with Israel and prohibits its citizens from engaging in any form of contact with or travel to the country.

In 2006, Israel conducted a significant ground invasion of southern Lebanon in response to Hezbollah rocket fire across the border.

The 34-day war led to more than 1,000 Lebanese and 165 Israeli deaths.

Updated: August 29, 2023, 2:56 PM