MOSCOW, May 20 (UPI) -- An Israeli military attache assigned to Moscow was expelled because he was "caught red-handed" gathering information, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Friday.
Russia accused Vadim Leiderman of espionage, declared him persona non grata and recently expelled him from the country, two months before his tenure expires in July.
Israeli officials said their investigation determined the allegations of espionage were unfounded. An Israeli official familiar with the matter said that the military attache likely was victimized by a competitive struggle between Russian and Israeli companies, ITAR-Tass reported.
A member of the Russian special services said Leiderman "too actively helped some Israeli companies on the Russian market," the Russian news bureau said reported.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said Liederman was "was caught red-handed while getting secret information."
Israel's defense companies have been aggressively growing their presence in the Russian market, "often successfully competing with our companies and even pushing them out," said Igor Korotchenko, director of the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade.
The Israeli government determined Tel Aviv didn't receive secret information from Leiderman, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. His role was as a mediator in Israel's relations with the Russian armed forces and the military and industrial communities, and tracking the Kremlin's official publications, not an industrial spy, Israeli officials said.
"I do not know what Vadim Leiderman was interested in from the point of view of industrial espionage in Russia," a Russian defense official told the Izvestiya newspaper in Moscow. "But I can say that he actively lobbied the interests of an Israeli firm on our market to the detriment of others. This became an annoyance to many people in Russia and Israel. He did business incompatible with his status."