Russian journalist Yulia Yuzik has been arrested in the Iranian capital on espionage charges, according to Moscow’s embassy in Tehran.
Embassy spokesman Andrei Ganenko said Yuzik flew to Tehran on a private invitation on September 29 and was arrested at a hotel on Thursday, but the embassy found out about her detention only on Friday through her family.
“She’s being accused of working for Israeli security services,” Ganenko said, citing Yuzik’s mother who briefly spoke to her over the phone late on Thursday.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia‘s foreign ministry, said on Friday Iran’s envoy was summoned to the ministry over the incident.
“Due to the detention in Tehran of Russian citizen Yulia Yuzik, Iran’s ambassador has been invited to the foreign ministry to facilitate a quick clarification of the circumstances of the incident and the protection of the rights of the Russian citizen,” Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.
Journalist Boris Voytsekhovskiy, identified by Russian media as Yuzik’s ex-husband, said she was arrested by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who had broken down her hotel door.
“The representative of Russia’s consulate is now at the Iranian foreign ministry trying to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that Yuzik had been in Iran at least once before, when she spent a few months working for a local media outlet.
“[This time] she just went there as a private person. She just went there, stayed at the hotel, chatted with local journalists,” he said.
Yuzik, 38, has no lawyer and an Iranian court will decide on Saturday whether to let her go or press formal charges and keep her in custody, Voytsekhovskiy said.
He added that Yuzik did not hold joint Israeli citizenship or a visa for that country and last visited Israel about 15 or 17 years ago to report on the Israeli army’s daily life for Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
She has also worked for a number of publications, including the Russian version of the Newsweek.
The journalist has also authored two books, including the Brides of Allah, which was released in nine countries.
Moscow has close economic and political ties with Tehran, and it is unusual for the latter to target Russian citizens.