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Ministry: Jailed pilot Yaroshenko may be exchanged for US citizens convicted in Russia

October 14, 2016, 19:37 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A diplomat says Russia expressed to the US side our readiness to hand over a US citizen or citizens who are currently in Russian prisons

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© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. Russian air pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, serving a prison term in the United States, may be exchanged for US citizens convicted in Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and rule of law, Konstantin Dolgov, has told the Rossiya-24 television news channel.

The Russian Justice Ministry earlier on Friday dispatched a message to the Russian Foreign Ministry with a request for his release to Russia. The Foreign Ministry will forward the message to the US authorities concerned through diplomatic channels.

"We have expressed to the US side our readiness to hand over - on the basis of the very same convention of the Council of Europe - a US citizen or citizens who are currently in Russian prisons," Dolgov said.

He explained that the United States had at its disposal all necessary information about its citizens who may be released to the United States in exchange for Yaroshenko.

Dolgov said the Foreign Ministry had not received the Justice Ministry’s request for Yaroshenko’s exchange.

"As soon as we have the Justice Ministry’s request, we will forward it to the US side," Dolgov stated.

Russian civil aviation pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko was arrested in Liberia in May 2010 and secretly taken to the United States. In April 2011 the jury found him guilty of conspiracy for airlifting a large batch of drugs to the United States. Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He pled innocence and slammed his arrest as a provocation staged on trumped up charges. Yaroshenko is serving a prison term in Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Viktor Bout case

 Dolgov went on to say that it is quite possible to use the Council of Europe convention on the transfer of sentenced persons to return Russian national Viktor Bout from a US prison.

"In principle, the option of using the Council of Europe Convention is possible and we told the American side about that many times but for this purpose, naturally, all the required legal formalities should be complied with," Dolgov said.

"In any case, we are carefully watching the situation in the Bout case," the Russian diplomat said.

"It is no less politicized than the case of Konstantin Yaroshenko. The situation with the violation of the rights of our citizen is also absolutely unacceptable and we told the US authorities about that many times," he added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s envoy also said that Bout had quite skilled lawyers who "consider various options of continuing the work to ensure and safeguard his interests."

"We stay in contact with them and with Bout," Dolgov said. "The task is the same: to return him to his home country as soon as possible. Fortunately, Bouts’ health condition does not cause such fears as in the case with Yaroshenko," Dolgov said.

Viktor Bout was detained in 2008 in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, on the basis of a warrant issued by a local court at the request of the US. He was charged with illegal shipment of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group designated as a terrorist organization in the United States. In 2010, Bout was extradited to the US. In April 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison and received a $15 million fine.

The Russian national is serving his sentence in United States Penitentiary, Marion, some 500 kilometers south of Chicago.

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