A Russian military attache at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo left Japan on Saturday after a senior officer of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force was arrested early Friday for allegedly passing defense secrets to him.
Capt. Victor Bogatenkov, 44, boarded a plane at Narita airport, which took off at 12:25 p.m.
The Metropolitan Police Department had asked Bogatenkov, who has diplomatic immunity, to present himself for questioning, but he refused to comply.
Police arrested Shigehiro Hagisaki, a lieutenant commander and researcher at the Defense Agency’s National Institute for Defense Studies, on suspicion of violating the Self-Defense Forces Law, which prohibits SDF members from divulging classified security information.
The police said Bogatenkov is a member of Russia’s GRU intelligence organization who arrived in Japan about three years ago.
The Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Kazuhiko Togo, director general of the ministry’s European and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, telephoned Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Panov to express regret over Bogatenkov’s departure.
Togo urged Panov to provide information on the case and to prevent similar incidents occurring again in the future, ministry officials said.
Togo told the ambassador that Bogatenkov had not behaved in an appropriate manner for a diplomat and it is regrettable that he left Japan without cooperating with the police investigation.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday the arrest of the MSDF officer will not affect ties between the two nations.
“My hope is that this incident will not have any influence on Japanese-Russian relations,” Ivanov told Public Russian Television in New York, where he is attending the U.N. summit of global leaders, which ended Friday.
Ivanov emphasized that the arrest and allegations of espionage had “absolutely no connection” with the official visit to Japan made by Russian President Vladimir Putin just prior to the summit, when Putin held talks with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
The minister said he was confident that relations between Japan and Russia, including those in the field of defense, would continue to develop.
Interfax news agency on Friday quoted a government source as saying Russia may take “appropriate” retaliatory measures against Japan in connection with the alleged espionage case, which the source called “provocative and extremely unfriendly.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the case suggests the existence of people in Japan who are dissatisfied with current Russia-Japan ties.
A Japanese Embassy official in Moscow said the Russian Foreign Ministry has not summoned the Japanese ambassador to file a protest.
ITAR-Tass news agency earlier in the day quoted a Russian Embassy official as saying, “We regard the incident as a provocation with the aim to undermine all positive achievements in bilateral relations for the past few years.
“Japan, unfortunately, has forces that have no affection for the radical improvement in Russian-Japanese relations and that are trying to turn history backward,” the official said.
Exchanges, including private ones, have been established between the Russian and Japanese navies, the official said, calling the exchanges “only natural and complying with international practice.”