Russian national arrested in Denmark on espionage suspicion

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) said in a statement that the Russian national was taken into custody south of Copenhagen on suspicion of enabling a foreign intelligence service to operate in Denmark.

Danish authorities announced Tuesday the arrest of a Russian citizen accused of enabling espionage activities in the Scandinavian country, with local media reporting the detained individual is a prominent member of the Russian diaspora community.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) said in a statement that the Russian national was taken into custody south of Copenhagen on suspicion of enabling a foreign intelligence service to operate in Denmark.

While few official details were provided, PET stressed the arrest was unrelated to the recent European Parliament elections. However, the agency suggested it may have connections to recent media leaks and reports about the activities of a Russian sovereign wealth fund accused of financial disinformation operations.

Neither the identity nor gender of the arrested Russian was officially disclosed. However, multiple Danish outlets citing sources reported the detained individual is a well-known Russian woman residing in the country.

The daily newspaper Berlingske identified her as Zhanna Samsonova, described as an influential voice in Denmark’s Russian community who has drawn scrutiny in the past over her links to the Kremlin.

Last month, the Danish broadcaster DR and other European media published an investigation based on leaked documents alleging the Russian sovereign fund Pravfond has covertly financed disinformation projects aimed at the West.

PET indicated its espionage case is connected to the media reporting on Pravfond, which the Russian government established and whose purpose and activities have been shrouded in secrecy.

If the accusations prove accurate, the incident would represent a significant Russian intelligence operation being rolled up in a NATO-allied nation already on high alert over previous Kremlin espionage activities on its soil.

In 2021, Denmark’s counterintelligence chief accused Moscow of maintaining and building its ability to conduct espionage in the country, including specifically against government, military and corporate targets.

Danish officials had also accused Russia’s military intelligence service of being behind a major hacking attempt on the Copenhagen energy company’s systems that was disrupted in 2022.

While such incidents have strained relations between Russia and Denmark, they have also prompted concerns among security professionals and Russian diaspora communities about possible blowback from either Moscow’s intelligence agencies or anti-Russian sentiments.