A London-based executive of flagship Russian airline Aeroflot has reportedly been detained by Russian security services on suspicion of passing state secrets to Britain.
The TASS and RIA news agencies identified the executive as Dmitry Fedotkin, Reuters reported. He is said to deny any wrongdoing.
An unnamed Russian source is cited by TASS and RIA as saying that Dmitry Fedotkin passed secrets about Russia’s social and political situation to MI6.
He is said to have had no access to state secrets linked to aviation. He could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted of high treason.
Records from Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court show it opened a state treason case against an individual named DA Fedotkin on Wednesday.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Fedotkin has been Aeroflot’s station manager in Britain since October 2015 and was the airline’s UK country manager for almost three years before that.
Aeroflot said it did not have any information about the case, while the British embassy in Moscow referred questions to Russian authorities, Reuters reported.
Detaining soldiers, scientists and state employees on suspicion of divulging state secrets is not unusual for Russia.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) last month detained a serviceman and his brother in western Russia for having allegedly passed state secrets to Estonia.
Mr Fedotkin’s reported detention comes as the UK is set to send its first government minister to Moscow since 2017.
Relations have been in the deep freeze since the March 2018 poisoning of ex-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, allegedly by Russian agents.
Wendy Morton, a junior Foreign Office minister, is set to meet Russia’s deputy foreign minister, resuming an annual tradition, although relations are not being normalised.
Issues expected to be discussed include the recent poisoning of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, who is still recovering in Germany, as well as efforts to tackle climate change.