Russian Diplomats Accused of Hit and Run Again

Countries including the UK and Canada have expelled Russian diplomats for alleged spying in recent years. Three apparently separate events within three days have brought the activities of Russians in Romania under the microscope. One led to a 19-year-old Romanian being seriously injured in a hit-and-run incident, and another involves serious alleged espionage with a tint of Cold War intrigue. And this is not the first time that Russian diplomatic vehicles have been accused of involvement in hit-and-run incidents: a similar accident was reported in Sweden last year, and in 2001 a woman was killed by a Russian diplomatic car in Ottawa.
Romania is already in bed with American companies like ExxonMobil and Mobil, challenging Russian assertions in Southeast Europe, particularly in the energy sector. Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline to Central Europe is set to run through the region, and the energy giant and other Russian firms have shown interest in nuclear power development in Bulgaria and upstream oil and gas exploration in the former Yugoslavia. Additionally, Russia operates a “humanitarian base” in Nis, in Southern Serbia, linked to Moscow’s Emergency Ministry – which has a large paramilitary force. Russia has also hinted that it might look to install anti-missile defense systems in Transdniestr, a breakaway part of Moldova where Russia has at least 1,200 troops. This would be a direct response to Romania’s agreement earlier this year to host a US missile defense system.
Meanwhile, an October 15 report by the geopolitical consulting outfit, Oxford Analytica, suggested that Russia was increasingly shifting its spying efforts to focus on economic targets. “The indictment [earlier this month] of eleven Russians and Russian-born US citizens on charges of the illegal export of militarily sensitive microelectronics has underlined the extent to which economic and technical secrets are critical to Russia’s intelligence agencies,” according to the report’s abstract.

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