Urban Explorer Photographer Has Spent Nine Months in Albanian Prison

Urban explorer photographer Lana  Sator has spent the last nine months in an Albanian jail.
Urban explorer photographer Lana Sator has spent the last nine months in an Albanian jail.

An urban explorer photographer was arrested and put in an Albanian jail for nine months.

Russian photographer and blogger Svetlana Timofeeva — who goes by Lana Sator professionally — was arrested on spying charges while allegedly urban exploring in Albania in August 2022.

One of Russia’s Most Famous Urban Explorers

34-year-old Sator, who is considered one of Russia’s most famous urban explorers, was arrested last year while entering the former communist military factory of Gramsh which is 50 miles (80km) from the Albanian capital of Tirana.

When Albania was under communist rule, the rundown weapons factory had once been used to make Russian-designed AK-47 rifles. The Gramsh plant was also used to dismantle small arms and ammunition.

Sator — who has over 250,000 followers on Instagram — says that the only reason she was visiting the area was her desire to film abandoned buildings from the Cold War era.

According to Reuters, Sator claims that she believed the factory was abandoned and there was no sign suggesting any military facility and people and animals were moving in and out freely.

However as she entered the premises, Sator was arrested on suspicion of spying on Albanian abandoned factories by two army guards — along with Russian companion Mikahil Zorin and Ukranian Fedir Alpatov.

Albanian prosecutors claim investigators discovered cameras, drones for taking photographs, phones, hand-drawn maps, and $6,000 in cash.

Sator was charged with espionage after her ill-fated adventure in Gramsh and the photographer has since spent nine months in an Albanian prison.

‘Investigation Still Pending’

According to her social media profile, it appears that she has now been released from prison. However, in an Instagram caption posted on May 28, Sator says that her “investigation [is] still pending” and there is “no final trial in which I could be fully acquitted yet.”

Sator’s supporters have questioned why the Albanian military value the long-disused Gramsh factory. Meanwhile, the Albanian Ministry of Justice’s website says the Gramsh plant now provides manufacturing services for the defense industry.

The Washington Street Journal reports that Sator is well-known in the world of urban exploration. She has taken photographs in abandoned locations in over 30 countries and published two books on her images.

Sator has primarily built a career photographing abandoned sites around the former Soviet Union — sometimes from the inside of tightly guarded military sites.

In 2012, she snuck into a Russian rocket factory and posted striking images from its interior.

Image credits: Header photo via Instagram/@lanasator.