Albania said on August 21 that it was investigating why two Russians and a Ukrainian had tried to enter a military factory, and police have also detained four Czech nationals who were close to another military plant.
The Albanian Defense Ministry said in a statement late on August 20 that Albanian authorities had arrested two Russians and one Ukrainian who were trying to enter a military plant in central Albania.
The ministry said two Albanian soldiers were injured while trying to prevent the three foreign nationals — two men and a woman — from taking photos of the Gramsh factory, some 80 kilometers south of the capital, Tirana.
“The officers who were guarding the plant reacted immediately, but during their efforts to stop the three foreign nationals, two of our soldiers were injured” by one of the attackers who used a paralyzing spray, the statement said.
The two soldiers were transported to a Tirana hospital and are receiving medical treatment, the statement said, adding that their lives were not in danger.
Defense Minister Niko Peleshi said on August 21 that it was too early to be sure about the motive but referred to geopolitics — apparently indicating a possible link to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been criticized by the Albanian government.
“In view of the broad regional context and the geopolitical context, this cannot be dismissed as just as ordinary, civilian incident, but we cannot rush to conclusions,” he said after visiting the injured soldiers in hospital.
A Russian man identified in the statement as M.Z., 24, a Russian woman identified as S.T., 33, and a Ukrainian man identified as F.A,. 25, were arrested on the spot and their vehicle was seized, the ministry said.
Police said an investigation has been launched into the incident.
The Gramsh military plant opened in 1962 to produce AK-47, or Kalashnikov, rifles. After the fall of communism in 1990 it stopped production and instead began to dismantle old Kalashnikovs and other small weapons. It also repairs other army weapons.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said late on August 20 that the three individuals were “suspected of espionage.”
In a separate incident, police said on on August 21 that four Czech nationals had been detained at the Polican military plant.
Police said two Czech women were initially spotted outside the plant and two other men were found inside tunnels at the location.
Local media reported that all four said they were tourists.
The Polican plant was used during communism to produce ammunition for Russian made AK-47 rifles, hand grenades, anti-personnel, and anti-tank mines. Some foreign tourists who have visited the place previously have managed to enter the tunnels where the ammunition was made.
Albania, a former communist country that has been a NATO member since 2009, has strongly denounced Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and has joined European Union and U.S. sanctions against Moscow. (Radio Free Europe)