High French officer arrested; have reported ties to Russia

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PARIS – A senior French army official based abroad has been arrested and brought preliminary charges of treason for sharing highly sensitive information with a foreign power, authorities said on Sunday. Europe-1 radio reported that the lieutenant-colonel is accused of having transmitted “ultra-sensitive” information to the Russian secret services. He reported that the officer served on a NATO base in Italy and was arrested while on vacation in France.

The French authorities have not confirmed for which foreign power the senior officer is suspected of spying.

Defense Minister Florence Parly said the officer was under investigation for “serious security breaches”. Speaking on Europe-1 on Sunday, Parly said the French military had taken “the necessary protective measures” as a result.

An investigation for treason was opened at the end of July after the Defense Ministry alerted the Paris prosecutor’s office to suspect activity, according to a judicial official.

The officer was arrested and charged on August 21 with compromising national defense secrets, sharing intelligence with a foreign power that threatens the nation’s fundamental interests and other charges, the official told the Associated Press. The official has not been allowed to be identified publicly to discuss an ongoing investigation.

NATO said the organization does not comment on intelligence matters, noted that a legal process was underway and referred matters to French authorities.

The Russian Embassy in France did not comment.

The French Defense Minister also said on Sunday that France was investing “heavily” in military activities in space – notably after a 2018 incident in which a Russian satellite came close to a French satellite in an effort apparent eavesdropping on secure military communications.

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