Israel-Lebanon border
Israel-Lebanon borderReuters

Two Russian citizens who were recently detained in Beirut on suspicion of spying for Israel have been referred to an investigative military judge who issued arrest warrants for them, two judicial officials said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The two Russians were detained “several weeks ago” in Beirut as they were leaving the country through the capital’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The comments come after the head of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate Maj. Gen. Elias Baisari announced on Friday that two foreigners were detained while leaving Lebanon through the airport, describing them as “part of a network spying for Israel.” He did not give their identities or say when they were detained.

Russia’s Sputnik News on Saturday quoted “a Russian embassy source” as saying that the Russian consulate is trying to contact the detainees to know why they are being held. The Russian Embassy in Beirut refused to comment when contacted by AP.

The officials said on Monday that an investigative judge at the military tribunal, Fadi Sawwan, questioned the two and charged them with “crimes of dealing with the Israeli enemy by supplying security information that endangers Lebanon’s security.” He referred them to another judge to continue the investigation.

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar said the two Russian citizens are a man and wife who were recruited by Israel’s intelligence service to go to Lebanon and collect information and take photos of facilities belonging to the militant group Hezbollah.

Israel and Lebanon do not have official diplomatic relations, and Lebanon often arrests suspected collaborators with Israel.

In October of 2018, Lebanese security forces arrested three Lebanese men suspected of collaborating with Israel.

According to the report, the three admitted that they had been in contact with Israeli officers and agents.

In 2017, Lebanon’s security services claimed they had arrested a spy ring comprised of five people who allegedly “spied for Israeli embassies abroad”.

In 2015, Lebanese authorities announced they had arrested two Lebanese nationals and a Syrian on allegations of spying for Israel.

Several weeks later, Lebanese media reported that soldiers had detonated a "listening device" allegedly planted by Israel in the southern Marjayoun region, close to the border with the Jewish state.