A Russian diplomat in Tokyo on Monday criticized Japanese police over their investigation into alleged espionage activities involving a Russian military attache, saying the incident was plotted by forces in Japan that are unhappy with relations between the two countries.

Sergei Yasenev, first secretary at the Russian Embassy in charge of press affairs, called the allegation “an act of provocation.”

However, he remained cautious over possible retaliatory measures against Japan, only saying that Russia would wait and see what course Japanese authorities take.

Capt. Viktor Bogatenkov, 44, who has diplomatic immunity, left Japan for Russia on Saturday after rejecting a police request that he cooperate in investigations.

Bogatenkov, a member of the Russian intelligence organization GRU, is suspected of obtaining classified security information from Lt. Cmdr. Shigehiro Hagisaki, 38, a Maritime Self-Defense Force official.

Asked if Bogatenkov had contact with Hagisaki and whether he gave him money in exchange for the information, Yasenev said Bogatenkov “did not violate any globally acknowledged standard or principle.”

He said Bogatenkov left Japan only because he has completed his assignment as military attache. Bogatenkov had been in Japan for about three years.

Police arrested Hagisaki, a researcher at the Defense Agency’s National Institute for Defense Studies, last Friday on suspicion of violating the Self-Defense Forces Law, which prohibits SDF members from divulging classified security information.

Meanwhile, police sources said Sunday that Hagisaki was carrying copies of training manuals for high-ranking MSDF officials when police interrupted his meeting with Bogatenkov at a Tokyo bar Thursday night.

The copies were allegedly meant for Bogatenkov, but Hagisaki did not have time to hand them over before police asked him to accompany them to the station, the sources said.

Investigators, however, are looking into the possibility that information about MSDF training has been leaked in the past, they said.

Police also said they found that defense secrets previously passed to the attache by Hagisaki included a list of the agency’s senior officials. They also discovered highly confidential SDF documents among articles seized during searches of Hagisaki’s residence, but it is believed that copies of the documents had not been handed over to the attache.

Hagisaki had copies of several training manuals for senior MSDF officials that covered how to operate personnel units and handle equipment.

The level of confidentiality of the documents was not high, but they should not have been taken out of the agency as they contained information about MSDF training methods and philosophy.

Investigators suspect Hagisaki intended to offer to explain the contents of the manuals to the attache.

Russia has said the allegations are “groundless” and an attempt to prevent Japan and Russia from building a partnership at a time when bilateral relations have been proceeding in a favorable direction.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.