Exclusive: Ukraine says French national had plans for 15 attacks in France

Access to the comments Comments
By Catherine Hardy
Exclusive: Ukraine says French national had plans for 15 attacks in France
  • Euronews exclusive interview
  • 25-year-old had plans for “15 attacks”
  • “Arms smuggling more likely” – France

Exclusive interview with Euronews

In an exclusive interview with Euronews, the head of Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) says the French national detained with a cache of weapons and explosives talked of plans for 15 attacks on government buildings and Jewish and Muslim places of worship during the Euro 2016 football tournament.

He is unhappy about a lot of things

The 25-year-old was arrested at the Polish border during a “sting” operation – rocket launchers, Kalashnikov rifles and explosives were found.

SBU chief Vasyl Hrytsak told Euronews the 25-year-old says he was ready to carry out terrorist attacks in France. “He is unhappy about a lot of things,” he said.

“He says he is a member of an organisation. He does not look like a straightforward weapons smuggler.”

Weapons smuggling or terrorism?

French investigators say they now think the suspect was more likely to have been involved in arms smuggling than terrorism.

France has requested Kiev’s cooperation.

The case has been handed to the office of the prosecutor in Nancy, near the suspect’s home in eastern France, rather than to the national anti-terrorism unit and the Paris prosecutor.

This is being read by some as a sign that French officials doubt terrorism as a motive.

What is Ukraine saying?

Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) said the suspect had planned “terrorist attacks” during the Euro 2016 football tournament which starts on Friday in France.

SBU chief Vasyl Hrytsak said:

  • the 25-year-old suspect had made contact with armed groups in Ukraine
  • he was stopped at the Polish border during a “sting” operation
  • rocket launchers, Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives were found

Hrytsak said the detained French national spoke out against mass immigration, the spread of Islam and globalisation.

The SBU head said he also talked of plans to carry out 15 attacks on Jewish and Muslim places of worship as well as government buildings during the European football tournament that runs for a month until July 10.

“He was always polite, very kind”

Neighbours in the village of Nant-le-Petit in eastern France have described the suspect as a hard-working, courteous young man who kept to himself.

“We’re shocked. He was always polite, very kind, a kid who always managed on his own,” said neighbour Catherine Lenquette.

“We never talked about politics,” she said. “I can’t see him doing anything like that.”

A raid on the man’s home turned up ingredients that could be used in homemade explosives but equally in agricultural pesticides.

A T-shirt bearing the logo of the French far-right group “French Renewal” was also found.

A spokesman for the group says the suspect is not known to them and their T-shirts can be bought online.

Will France ask for the suspect’s extradition?

“We’re not at that point yet,” – Thomas Pison, Nancy prosecutor.

What they are saying

“This young man is unknown to French intelligence services and the judicial authorities are, for now, leaning towards a possible arms smuggling case,” – Thomas Pison, the prosecutor for Nancy.

“We have never heard of this young man. We have done nothing wrong and we have nothing to fear,” – Thibaut de Chassey, French Renewal.