Russian minister delays Israel trip after 'spy' row

23rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu has postponed a planned visit to Israel after the expulsion of the Jewish state's military attache to Moscow, state television reported on Monday.

Shoigu, who was scheduled to land in Tel Aviv on Sunday to sign cooperation accords, informed his Israeli counterpart Matan Vilnai of an indefinite postponement because of a "change in his schedule," it said.

Russia's foreign ministry said Friday that Israel's military attache, Soviet-born army colonel Vadim Leiderman, was "caught red-handed" on May 12 trying to receive "secret information" on Russia's arms deals with Arab states.

Israel's army and its defence minister insisted the accusation of spying was "unfounded".

His expulsion sparked protests in Israel and was the first such incident between the two countries in two decades.

Russia and Israel enjoy close economic ties based on the Jewish state's vast ex-Soviet diaspora.

But Russia is also a key arms supplier to the Arab world and continues to sell advanced missile systems, notably Yakhont anti-ship missiles, to Syria, with which Israel is technically at war.

© 2011 AFP

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