By Fjori Sinoruka
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday accused Albanian media of “fuelling hype around the criminal cases opened by local prosecutors against two Russians allegedly suspected of espionage”, calling the whole affair “NATO propaganda”.
In late June media in Albania reported that two Russian citizens were under investigation by the Prosecution in Tirana for alleged espionage during the US-led military exercise Defender Europe 21 held in Albania in April and May.
Local media said that one of the Russians had entered Albania on May 12, after which a drone was found on him, and he had declared his destination as Durres, which was where the Defender Europe 21 exercise was taking place. According to Euronews Albania, he was one of two Russian nationals who entered Albania and were being investigated by the Tirana Prosecution.
The Prosecution told BIRN last week that it was still investigating “the existence of the fact” on this issue. After BIRN tried to contact the Albanian ministry over the issue, it could not obtain a response. BIRN contacted the Prosecution of Tirana also about the case, which said it was “still under investigation”. State Police did not want to comment when asked by BIRN.
However, the Russian Embassy in Albania said it had sent an inquiry to the Albanian Foreign Ministry. “The incident appears to be an exercise in #NATO propaganda,” it concluded.
Diplomatic relations between Tirana and Moskow have been chilly lately. In January Albania expelled a Russian diplomat, Aleksei Krivosheev, for not respecting COVID-19 rules.
In 2018, Albania declared two Russian diplomats “non grata”, claiming their activity was not compliant with their diplomatic status. Russia then expelled two Albanian diplomats from the Albanian embassy in Moscow.