Iran says Russian journalist held over visa issue, not Israel spy claim

Family members and the Russian media had said Yulia Yuzik was arrested on suspicion of spying on the Islamic Republic on behalf of Israel

Russian journalist Yulia Yuzik, arrested in Tehran in October 2019. (YouTube screenshot)
Russian journalist Yulia Yuzik, arrested in Tehran in October 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

Iran has confirmed the arrest last week in Tehran of a Russian journalist, saying the case was a matter of a visa violation.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters that Yulia Yuzik’s case is under “quick review” by authorities and wasn’t related to matters concerning the “counter-espionage” department. Her ex-husband said last week she had been arrested for allegedly spying for Israel.

The Russian Embassy in Tehran said on Friday that Yuzik flew into Tehran the previous Sunday and that Iranian officials seized her passport at the airport for unknown reasons. She was arrested from her hotel room on Wednesday.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Moscow to explain Yuzik’s arrest.

Prior to her arrest, Yuzik posted photographs from her trip on Instagram, saying she loved being in Iran.

Yuzik, 38, has worked for a number of publications including the Russian version of Newsweek. She authored two books including “Beslan Dictionary,” which is based on testimony from survivors of the 2004 Beslan school massacre that claimed more than 330 lives, more than half of them children.

She was first declared missing earlier last by family members who said she was arrested in Tehran. Her ex-husband Boris Voytsekhovskiy posted on Facebook that Yuzik was facing charges of cooperating with Israeli intelligence services, and that her trial was scheduled for Saturday. He told Russian media outlets that Yuzik used to work as a correspondent in Tehran several years ago, and she returned to the Iranian capital last week at the invitation of an unknown party.

He said that Iranian authorities confiscated Yuzik’s passport upon her arrival, telling her it would be returned to her when she departed the country. Days later, Voytsekhovskiy said that Revolutionary Guard Corps broke into her Tehran hotel room and detained her.

“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps broke into her hotel room yesterday and accused her of cooperating with Israeli security services,” Voytsekhovskiy told Russia’s RBC news site on Thursday.

Iran’s ambassador to Moscow told Russia’s deputy foreign minister on Friday that Yuzik will “soon be released,” according to a statement put out by the Russian ministry last week.

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