A mysterious and potentially important series of events last weekend in Albania failed to receive much international notice, overtaken by the explosion of a car bomb in Moscow that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of far-right, pro-Kremlin ideologue Alexander Dugin.
Some are speculating that Dugina may have been assassinated by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence service. It’s one of many theories making the rounds, suggesting that the simmering intrigue surrounding Russia’s protracted war against Ukraine may be starting to boil over. But another suspected Russian intelligence operation on the soil of NATO ally Albania—complete with an assault, allegedly with a nerve agent, against two Albanian soldiers—may be even more troubling. The incident, however small, may have been the first direct clash between NATO and Russia since Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine six months ago.
Albanian officials reported that they arrested three suspected Kremlin spies on Saturday at a military base in the town of Gramsh, some 70 miles south of the capital, Tirana. The incident unfolded when Albanian military guards spotted a Russian man, Mikhail Zorin, taking photographs inside a military weapons factory. When they confronted him, according to Albania’s Ministry of Defense, he sprayed them with a paralyzing agent in a failed attempt to escape. Security forces then detained two more people, a Russian woman and a Ukrainian man, just outside the plant.