Albania is investigating the motive of two Russians and a Ukrainian who attempted to enter a military factory after an ensuing altercation put two Albanian soldiers in the hospital when they tried to stop the intruders.
Two soldiers were slightly injured while detaining a 24-year-old man from Russia who entered the grounds of the Gramsh military facility, in central Albania, and was trying to take photographs, the defence ministry said late on Saturday.
“The Russian national reacted physically and he also used a spray, which injured the two soldiers who managed to warn the police,” Defence Minister Niko Peleshi said after visiting the troops in the hospital.
Two others, a 33-year-old Russian woman and a Ukrainian man aged 25, were arrested nearby.
It was too early to speculate about their motive but Peleshi indicated a possible link to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been criticised by the Albanian government.
“In view of the broad regional context and the geopolitical context, this cannot be dismissed as just as an ordinary, civilian incident. But we cannot rush to conclusions,” he said on Sunday.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said the three individuals were “suspected of espionage” without giving any further details.
Albania has been a member of NATO since 2019. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the country has joined other Western countries in condemning Russia and has introduced sanctions against it.
According to Tirana-based media, the three suspects were bloggers who often visited abandoned military bases and other factories in different countries.
When Albania was under communist rule, the Gramsh plant produced Russian-designed AK-47 assault rifles.
The ministry’s website said the factory now provides manufacturing services for the defence industry. In the past, it was also used to dismantle small arms and ammunition.