Russia assailed an American request to extradite a suspected arms dealer from Lithuania, less than three years after failing to stop Thailand’s transfer of Viktor Bout to the U.S. for plotting to sell weapons to terrorists.
Dmitry Ustinov is accused at a U.S. court of smuggling, money laundering and attempts to illegally export goods included on a list of U.S. defense articles, the Russian embassy in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, said today in an e-mailed response to questions. He was detained at the Vilnius airport on April 15 at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice and awaits the start of court proceedings on his extradition, it said. Ustinov denies any wrongdoing, according to the statement.
The embassy “will do everything necessary to defend the legal rights of D. Ustinov,” it said. “We don’t agree with this treatment of a Russian citizen.”
The case threatens to rekindle diplomatic tensions between Russia and the U.S. a year after another Russian citizen, Viktor Bout, was sentenced in New York to 25 years in prison for plotting to sell weapons to a Colombian terrorist group. Russia repeatedly sought to block Bout’s extradition from Thailand, where he was arrested in 2008, and criticized his eventual conviction as “unjustified.”
Several U.S. officials involved in Bout’s case were barred from entry to Russia last month after being included on a list of Americans accused of violating the rights of Russian citizens abroad.
A Lithuanian court in April authorized Ustinov’s detention for two months, pending receipt of a formal extradition request by the U.S., the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office said in an e-mailed response to questions today. The office declined to specify the grounds for detention because they’re based on a foreign government’s investigation.
U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Berger, speaking by phone in Vilnius on May 24, declined to comment on Ustinov, referring the matter to the Department of Justice.
Ustinov was born in 1966, according to the Russian Embassy. Russian consular officials met with him at a detention facility in Vilnius on April 29, the embassy said.