U.S. Wins Lithuania Handover of Accused Russian Arms DealerBryan Bradley
Lithuania acceded to a U.S. request to extradite suspected Russian arms dealer Dmitry Ustinov, brushing aside Russia’s protests that the process was flawed.
The Baltic nation’s Court of Appeal, in a definitive ruling, upheld the July 22 decision of a lower court that ordered the extradition. Evidence provided by the U.S. showed Ustinov “may have committed the crimes of which he is accused,” Judge Linas Zukauskas said today at the court in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
The case risks further rankling the former Cold War foes less than two weeks after Russia granted a year’s asylum to Edward Snowden, who faces American espionage charges, leading President Barack Obama to cancel a planned one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow next month. Another Russian citizen, Viktor Bout, was sentenced in New York to 25 years in prison a year ago for plotting to sell weapons to a terrorist group.
The U.S. practice of arresting Russian citizens in third countries and extraditing them is “of the most serious concern” to Russia and violates terms of a 1999 treaty between the two countries on mutual legal assistance, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s human rights representative, said in a July 24 statement on the ministry’s website. He expressed “deep regret” over Ustinov’s situation, saying “experience shows” that Russians aren’t guaranteed a fair trial in the U.S.
Dolgov condemned the extradition ruling as “unacceptable and unfounded,” in a statement posted today on the foreign ministry’s website.
Russia repeatedly sought to block Bout’s extradition from Thailand, where he was arrested in 2008, and criticized his eventual conviction as “unjustified.”
Ustinov, born in 1966, is accused at a Delaware court of smuggling, money laundering and attempts to illegally export goods on a list of U.S. defense articles. He was detained at Vilnius airport on April 15 at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. Ustinov denies any wrongdoing, his lawyer in Lithuania, Drasutis Zagreckas, said today.
Zagreckas had appealed the extradition on grounds the process was rushed, superficial and based on faulty evidence.
Ustinov will be shipped out of the country within about 10 days, the news portal delfi.lt reported, without saying where it got the information.