The military attaché and defense ministry representative in Russia, Colonel Vadim Leiderman, has been expelled over suspicions of spying [Reuters]

Russia has expelled Israel's military attache at its Moscow embassy after briefly detaining him for questioning on suspicion of spying, the Israeli army and the defence ministry said.

"The military attache and defence ministry representative in Russia, Colonel Vadim Leiderman, was last week surprisingly detained for questioning by the Russian authorities on claims of espionage ... following the questioning he was given 48 hours to leave Russia," the defence ministry and military said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment on the matter, as did the Russian foreign ministry and Russia's Federal Security Service.

Military sources said Leiderman returned to Israel several days ago after being questioned by Russian authorities over espionage allegations and then told to leave the country immediately.

Israel's state-run Channel One television said he was arrested while sitting at a cafe with a Russian.

Israeli media reported the incident occurred during visit to Moscow by the Israeli parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

Unclear reasons

"Sources in Israel said that the reason for the expulsion was not yet clear, and that they had not received a detailed explanation from the Russians," Ynet said.

Leiderman was born in the Soviet Union, is a fluent Russian-speaker, holds a doctorate in engineering and is an air force technical expert, Israel daily Haaretz's website said, adding he spent several years as an air force representative in the United States.

Haaretz said Leiderman's arrest was not the first of its kind.

"In the early 1990s, Mossad representative Reuven Daniel was arrested in a Moscow subway station after he had purchased satellite images from a firm that was part of the Russian military intelligence," it said.

"During his arrest, Russian security officials disregarded Daniel's immunity, in an interrogation that included a severe beating.

He was then transferred to a local police station, released, and declared persona non grata," it said, adding Leiderman had suffered no physical abuse.

Source: Agencies