On Friday, the United States placed a supposed Russian spy in pretrial detention on its soil after receiving him from Estonia, at a time when Washington seeks to Prisoner exchange with Moscow.
Vadim Konoshinok was arrested in Estonia late last year while trying to cross the border into Russia carrying US-made semiconductors and ammunition for sniper rifles, according to the indictment against him.
The United States says he was a central figure in a smuggling ring of seven people, five Russians and two Americans, who worked “under the supervision of Russian intelligence services” to obtain US electronics and other goods subject to export controls.
US officials confirmed that about half a ton of US ammunition was seized in Operation Konoshinok.
The defendant faces up to 30 years in prison on charges of conspiracy, violation of export controls, smuggling and money laundering.
US Justice Department official Andrew Adams said Vadim Konoshinok “provided Russia with advanced US-developed technologies and munitions for use in its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”
The extradition of Konoshinok to the United States comes at a time when Washington is seeking To negotiate the return of American citizens imprisoned in Russia.
Among them is Paul Whelan, a private security official who was convicted by a Russian court of espionage. and Wall Street Journal reporter Ivan Gershkovitch who was charged with espionage.
The United States denies any involvement in espionage, but is negotiating to see if they can be exchanged for Russian prisoners.
“I am serious about a prisoner exchange,” US President Joe Biden said Thursday in Finland.
“I am serious about doing everything we can to free Americans illegally detained in Russia or elsewhere. And that process is underway,” he added.
Last December, the United States exchanged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for American basketball star Brittney Greener, who had been imprisoned in Russia months earlier on drug charges.
In April 2022, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former US Marine who had been imprisoned two years earlier for assaulting two Russian policemen.
At the same time, the United States released a Russian pilot imprisoned for drug trafficking.
The United States is also holding Alexander Finnik, a Russian man accused of money laundering who was deported from Greece last year, and Vladimir Dunaev, a hacker it was extradited from South Korea in 2021.
Washington is seeking to extradite from Brazil Sergey Cherkasov, a supposed Russian spy who attended graduate school in Washington under a false identity.
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