Russia Issues Travel Warning to Countries that Have an Extradition Arrangement with the US

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued its warning on Monday
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued its warning on Monday

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued its warning on Monday. It starts, “The incidents in which Russian citizens are detained in various countries of the world upon request of U.S. law enforcers who seek to extradite and prosecute them in the United States has increased.” (Translation via International Business Times.) Some, but not all, of the examples it quotes are Russian citizens accused of cybercrime by the US. “The last such cases were the arrests of Dmitry Ustinov in Lithuania, Dmitry Belorossov in Spain, Maksim Chukhrayev in Costa Rica and Aleksander Panin in the Dominican Republic.”

Panin is charged with bank fraud, while Chukhrayev was arrested over money laundering in connection with the Liberty Reserve takedown.

Since there is no extradition treaty between the US and Russia, US law enforcement attempts to locate any Russian suspects while they are outside of Russia, and then to extradite them from those countries. But the Russian statement likens this to kidnapping. “Experience shows that the judicial proceedings against those who were in fact kidnapped and taken to the U.S. are of a biased character, based on dubious evidence, and clearly tilted toward conviction,” it says.

The case of Aleksander Panin may be particularly relevant to the warning. Panin was recently arrested in the Dominican Republic where he was visiting a friend. “They first told him that he was detained just to get his papers checked,” his mother told the RT news service. “Local authorities promised to send him back to Russia on the next flight. But the plane took him to the US, a country where he’s never even been to.” 

The Russian Federation embassy in Washington subsequently issued a statement: “We have repeatedly pointed out to the U.S. side that in case of legal questions to our citizens it is necessary to send relevant requests to the Russian law-enforcement bodies in accordance with the Russia-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty but this is not happening.”

It is perhaps because the US chooses not make use of the bi-lateral assistance treaty signed in 1999 that the Foreign Affairs Ministry has issued its new warning. “The Russian Foreign Ministry recommends that Russian citizens should refrain from traveling abroad, especially to countries that have signed agreements with the U.S. on mutual extradition, if they have reasonable suspicions that U.S. law enforcement have any sort of claims against them.”

The warning has particular resonance given the current status of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Snowden spent several weeks in the transit area of Moscow airport (before being granted temporary asylum in Russia) knowing that if he left Russia he would likely end up back in the US. Assange is effectively held prisoner in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, knowing that if he steps outside he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden, and almost certainly from there to the US.

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