Plumbers? Police check of Russian diplomats in Davos raises questions

It costs around CHF9 million to ensure security at Davos not including a CHF32 million budget for the army. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

According to a Swiss newspaper, two Russians with diplomatic passports posing as plumbers were stopped by the local police during a routine check in Davos in August last year. 

This content was published on January 21, 2020 - 14:10

The Graubünden cantonal police stopped the two men in mid-August 2019 during a routine identity check at the venue hosting the current gathering of elite world leaders, according to the Tages Anzeiger paperExternal link on Tuesday.  At least one of them claimed to be a plumber but both produced diplomatic passports during the check, writes the Swiss daily. 

"It is true that we checked two Russian citizens in Davos and they identified themselves with diplomatic passports, but we could not ascertain any reason to detain them. They were allowed to go," a cantonal police spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that police had never identified the men as plumbers.  

A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Bern dismissed the report, saying two Russian diplomats accredited outside Switzerland had been checked and allowed to go on their way.  

"Diplomatic passports are given to high-ranking officials, not to manual labourers," he said. "I think this was probably a dumb joke."  

There is speculation that the two Russians went to Davos in order to prepare for long-range surveillance of WEF participants. Russia's military secret service GRU has been very active in recent years against Swiss targets. Swiss authorities believe that two Russian spies targeted a Swiss chemical weapons testing facility outside the capital, Bern. Russia is also suspected of being behind a cyberattack against the offices of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Lausanne. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not participating in the World Economic Forum this year.  

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