American jails now hold more Russians suspected and convicted of crimes than those of almost any other foreign country, as Washington pushes for them to be transferred there from third countries, Moscow officials have revealed.
Speaking to RIA Novosti on Monday, Grigory Lukyantsev, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, said that more than 50 Russians have been detained by third countries at the request of American officials.
“In terms of persecution, a glaring example is this practice used by the US of actually hunting down our citizens abroad and arresting them in other nations on the orders of American law enforcement agencies who are attempting to bring them to justice in the US,” Lukyantsev said. “Since 2008, more than 50 such cases have been known, and, unfortunately, the number of such cases continues to increase.”
Lukyantsev said the most Russians behind bars abroad are being held in the US, as well as those in nations with large immigrant populations, such as Germany, France, the UK, Belarus, Poland and Kazakhstan.
In 2008, Russian businessman Viktor Bout was arrested in Thailand in an operation involving US special services and later flown to America. He was found guilty four years later by an American court of conspiring to kill US citizens and supporting terrorism.
A number of prisoner swaps were said to be on the table for discussion when Russian President Vladimir Putin met his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in June. Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian airplane pilot, was mooted to be at the top of Moscow’s list after he was arrested and taken to the US in 2011, where he was convicted over drug smuggling allegations. Two former US marines, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, are currently serving time in Russian prisons and are believed to be considered for a potential swap.