Russian diplomat accused of espionage quietly leaves Sweden

An undated handout photo obtained by The Associated Press from an intelligence report from a European service of a man identified as Yevgeny Umerenko. Computer technology espionage specialist identified as Yevgeny Umerenko, was detained in Stockholm, Sweden, before he carried out an act of espionage, according to Swedish authorities Thursday March 28, 2019. (Photo via AP)
An undated handout photo obtained by The Associated Press from an intelligence report from a European service of a man identified as Yevgeny Umerenko. Computer technology espionage specialist identified as Yevgeny Umerenko, was detained in Stockholm, Sweden, before he carried out an act of espionage, according to Swedish authorities Thursday March 28, 2019. (Photo via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Russian diplomat quietly left Sweden following the arrest of a computer specialist he allegedly handled as a spy and met for dinner in Stockholm three weeks ago to carry out an act of espionage, Swedish authorities said.

The delay in Moscow recalling the diplomat back to Russia after he was seen meeting with the Swedish computer specialist at the nightclub where the arrest took place puzzled government officials and analysts.

An intelligence report from a European service obtained by The Associated Press identified the diplomat as Yevgeny Umerenko and alleged he served as a "line-x officer," or a specialist in technology espionage. The report said he previously served a similar spying role while stationed as a diplomat in Germany.

Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter first named Umerenko. Anna Lundbladh, a spokeswoman for Sweden's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, confirmed Thursday that Umerenko had left the country but said "we will not discuss this matter in further detail."

Following the computer specialist's arrest on suspicion of espionage, Sweden summoned Russia's ambassador "as a result of a diplomat's activities."

A former Swedish intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the case, said it was unusual Russia waited so long to withdraw the diplomat given his public exposure. SAPO chief Klas Friberg, also expressed surprise in an interview with Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The computer specialist was arrested on Feb. 26 by the country's domestic security agency. The agency, known by its Swedish acronym SAPO, said a Russian intelligence officer recruited the Swede after working the case "for a long time." Criminal activity had been going on at least since 2017, the agency said.

Magnus Ranstorp, an analyst at the Swedish National Defense College, described the arrest as a "big case," noting that Sweden and neighboring Finland are important spy posts for Russian intelligence.

The European intelligence report identified the computer specialist as Kristian Dmitrievski, a naturalized Swedish citizen who previously held a Russian passport. Dmitrievski is married to a Swede and lives in Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city and home to several prominent research institutions.

"Mr. Dmitrievski is a specialist in computer simulation and biophysics," the intelligence report said. A Swedish court document states he has a domestic violence conviction.

SAPO spokeswoman Sofia Hellqvist could not provide new information and referred to the prosecutor in charge of the investigation.

Dmitrievski previously worked at the Chalmers University of Technology, according to the report, and founded a company called Computer Simulation AB. Those details match the information on a LinkedIn page of a man named Kristian Dmitrievski.

Christian Borg, the press spokesman for the Chalmers University of Technology, told the AP Dmitrievski was employed as a researcher until 2011 but did not have access to sensitive information. The university has not been contacted by investigators, Borg said.

"The charges came as a total surprise for us. We see no connection to his former work at Chalmers," he said.

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Butler reported from Washington.

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