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Russian Foreign Ministry dismisses alleged interview with staff member on coke case

March 06, 1:29 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A person called Ruslan Arefyev is not found among the staff of the ministry, its official said

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© Mikhail Dzhaparidze/TASS

MOSCOW, March 6. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Ministry has noted publication of an interview with an assumed employee of the ministry regarding the ‘Argentine cocaine’ case.

"Conspiracy theorists still cannot calm down in connection with the plugging of a channel of cocaine trafficking from Argentina to Russia," an official at the ministry told reporters in the wake of an article in the Voyennoye Obozreniye [Military Review] newspaper. "The article titled ‘The Foreign Ministry, Coke and Dancing with Hyenas’ is a yet another plot of someone’s fantasies."

The official said that the ministry did not receive any formal requests for commentaries from Voyennoye Obozreniye. "But the media outlet was lucky in getting an interview from an ostensible worker of a department who identified himself as Ruslan Arefyev and agreed to speak to the presumable reporter."

"The problem a person named ‘Ruslan Arefyev’ is not found among the staff of any branch of the Foreign Ministry and the entire article is little more than a collection of fakes," the official said.

He strongly denied the claims that a request to inspect the premises of the Russian embassy school in Argentina had come from the Argentine authorities.

"The consignment of drugs was found inside the building by a newly appointed superintendent," the official said. "Ambassador Viktor Koronelli informed the Argentine authorities on the find in December 2016 and a minutely conceived joint operation to plug the drug trafficking channel began after that. It was conducted by the two countries’ security services - the Argentine Security Ministry and Russia’s FSB."

"We hope there are enough facts [in the public domain] to understand the interview with a certain Ruslan Arefyev is a fake - and we cannot rule out the one made to order," he said.

The Foreign Ministry said earlier the Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies had held a joint operation to block the delivery of a large consignment of drugs [389 km of coke] to the European market and had detained the suspects, who were Argentine and Russian citizens.

The ministry said the consignment of coke had been found in one of the buildings on the compound of the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires. It belonged to a member of the ambassadorial staff who had rounded up his mission in Argentina by that time.

The FSB public relations center said the Russian and Argentinian authorities had detained the suspects [three in Russia and two in Argentina]. Russian investigators placed the presumable mastermind of the scheme, Andrei Kovalchuk, on an international wanted list.

The FSB also said the information available to it indicated that Kovalchuk might be on a hideout in Germany.

Moscow City’s Tverskoi district court charged the man in absentia with drug trafficking and authorized his arrest.

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